In reality, school gardens are often short-lived projects that fall by the wayside without an organizational structure and people dedicated to ensuring their continued existence from year to year. Despite the initial excitement associated with the idea of creating a school garden, many teachers end up thinking they’re too much work and wonder what the point is … and who is ultimately responsible.
In southern New Mexico, La Semilla Food Center is effectively challenging the status quo. With an overarching mission to build a healthy and sustainable regional food system, La Semilla works with children, youth, and families to provide hands-on education and training to increase awareness around food issues. Aside from broad-based initiatives focused on agriculture, food policy, and economic development, La Semilla manages the establishment and maintenance of seven school gardens in the Las Cruces and Gadsden public school districts. As a fundamental part of their Edible Education program, La Semilla places service members with a group of teachers who then work collaboratively to integrate a comprehensive nutrition education curriculum into the classroom, school cafeteria, and weekly after-school clubs. Service members also conduct family cooking activities highlighting New Mexico grown produce, seasonality, healthier twists on common recipes, and easy food substitutions (such as honey for sugar). Edible Education gives students the opportunity to prepare many recipes from scratch, taste locally grown produce, learn about culture and food traditions, plant seedlings, and participate in fun miscellaneous activities like installing garden butterfly patches to attract pollinators. Continue reading here.