Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Kitchen Garden

Our vegetable garden was a bit of a mess in its first year of operation.(Too many things planted and my lack of a green thumb) Some parents picked some herbs and carrots but on the whole it became overgrown and went to seed. This year I decided to be more scientific and strategic with my planting.
To help with this I decided to participate in a 'kitchen garden' professional learning opportunity put on by the Friends of the Ballarat Botanical Gardens (FBBG) at the Robert Clark Horticultural Centre at the Ballarat Botanical Gardens.( six Thursday nights, starting tonight)
This evening we started with a talk from Peter Burke, Principal of Daylesford Primary school ( 300 students) about his experience in developing a school kitchen garden and suggested that school groups visit the gardens and use their facilities and expertise.
Julie Bradby is convening the workshops/seminars and told us ( about 50) that the nature of the program will develop throughout the next 5 weeks.
Peter's school is a Stephanie Alexander Kitchen School. ( two year grant) The emphasis is to develop a 'harvest table' of produce. Garden sessions are 30 minutes but the cooking sessions can be an hour and a half- 2 hours. The children start in 'the shed' with volunteers who split children into groups. Children need to get their 'wheelbarrow licence' to work out into the garden. They have a strong emphasis on developing the quality of the soil in their garden and creating compost. It is very hands on but also there is a lot of theory about germination, timing of planting, best growing conditions, watering and more. They encourage volunteers who support the gardener a, the kitchen and for watering (The Friends of Daylesford Kitchen Garden) and networking with local people and businesses ( such as the Lake House restaurant )They have attracted other grants to help support their program. Children using the gardens are from grade three to six.Peter is impressed with the social Competencies that develop in the program ( sharing, co-operation, teamwork )
Harvesting is an important time and children enjoy producing good quality food. ( Peter started by creating gardens in boxes to take home to get them started. He also puts recipes in the newsletter utilising food from the garden.) Peter is lucky to have a local chef helping to prepare and cook the food coming out of the garden and he also has 2 dedicated specialist teachers. Dayelsford has a large kitchen space (5 kitchen stations) In cooking there are five groups contributing to creating a recipe. Once it is made and served there is a sharing session.(They encourage children to sit and converse and use cutlery properly like a family might)
Peter started with a big working bee and with support of the local nursery. The working bee created an instant garden. He initially used the canteen as a kitchen. Peter needed to encourage volunteers to take one step back and allow the kids to do the work.The BER buildings in 2010 gave him the opportunity to create a space for the garden and the kitchen.Peter found that the garden gave parents an opportunity to get involved in the school and strengthened the school community. Fundraising helped to support the program as it is costly.
Now that the Stephanie Alexander grant has expired they levy families to raise money and have fundraisers and seek grants.It was interesting to hear about Peter's experience and to see his slides.
Our approach would need to be very different. It might be best to plan some meals first ( maybe one per term) and to plant vegetables to incorporate into the meals. Volunteer helpers will also be important given the facilities we have in particular the size of our kitchen (Our kitchen is well equipped but not a good size/shape) and preparation space. (maybe we can organise our furniture better and purchase a table suitable for food preparation)
Next week we will be looking at sustainability and wicking beds, composting (Something we should look at, at Glen Park) curriculum, auditing kitchen garden programs, cooking without a kitchen with Julie Miller, Clunes PS will discuss their concept of an edible play space and we will have the chef at Daylesford PS working at Wendouree PS kitchen.
( Below are photos of the Robert Clark Centre )

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