School gardens are a delightful setting for children to learn. They are outside in the sun. They get to dig in the dirt. They learn so much about science, math and health. They learn where their food comes from and how to grow it themselves. Whether it has been second graders harvesting tomatoes or high school seniors planting a variety of crops for their Senior Projects, the gardens have helped our students learn about agricultural practices focusing on planting, tending and harvesting crops.
The garden at Waggoner Elementary School has become an outdoor classroom thanks to funding and support provided by Winters Farm to School and many other community and government partners. Early on, as we were still developing the garden, staff from the UC Davis Student Farm and several Yolo Master Gardeners led student workshops on planting, irrigation techniques, composting and harvesting. Hedgerow Farms of Winters donated California native grasses and Putah Creek Council donated drought-tolerant native perennials, all of which have added interest and beauty to the garden. Terra Firma Farms in Winters has donated various vegetable crop transplants over the years to keep the gardens green and growing. Snow Landscape in Davis volunteered their time and labor to completely overhaul our outdated drip irrigation system. Volunteers from the Yolo County Young Farmers and Ranchers have spent hours weeding and maintaining the Waggoner Garden.
Another big boost for our school gardens came in 2018. That year, The First Northern Bank Community Giving & Outreach Program started granting local non-profits $10,000 grants. Winters Farm to School was honored to be the recipient of First Northern Bank’s very first $10,000 award! All of the monies granted were used to improve the Waggoner School Garden. Decomposed granite was purchased and used to cover all of the pathways throughout the garden to keep them weed-free and accessible year round. Funds were also used to purchase and install permanent metal tables with seating and shade for the garden. The Waggoner garden is now a comfortable, fun place for students to gather and learn.
We are also very excited that in April of 2021, our school district was awarded a $20,000 grant from the California Department of Food and Agriculture Office of Farm to Fork! We were one of 60 farm to school projects awarded throughout the state. Winters Joint Unified School District will use the funding provided to procure new locally grown foods for school meals, create recipes to incorporate the local items into school meals, continue to develop existing school gardens into outdoor classrooms, provide students with produce safety education, coordinate the produce that students grow in school gardens with the produce served in school meals, and integrate student-grown school garden produce into school meals.
We thank all of the students, teachers, businesses, volunteers and our After School Program kids who work together to keep our gardens inviting and flourishing.
UPDATE ON THE ROMINGER SCHOOL GARDEN
For years there has been a smaller-scale garden at Rominger School. With just five raised beds and three steel horse troughs filled with perennials, students and volunteers have kept the garden green and growing. This year the garden was relocated to a much smaller, shadier space to accommodate new portable classrooms which were built on the site of the old garden. We are having to start over…rebuilding all of the raised beds and installing a new drip irrigation system. With the help of volunteers, we hope to have a new garden in by next year.