Farming @ LMS
Ben Boegehold, LMS Farming Coordinator and BASP teacher
Every garden begins with soil. You want soil that has some nutrients, and a little drainage. After that, all you need is a handful of seeds, and the rest is up to nature. The plant knows what to do. It just needs to be put in the ground. It helps if you water it daily, but most seeds are equipped with the tools to make it until the next rain. After your seed is planted, all you need is patience.
I used tell this to my customers at the farmer's market who would look wistfully at our seedlings and tell me they had a “black” thumb. “I would love to have a garden, but I kill every plant I touch!” Kermit the Frog, it seems, was right when he said, “It ain't easy being green.”
But not to worry, we are told! “Green” has finally become trendy, and “local” is the buzzword. From every quarter, we are feeling pressure to make our lives more eco-friendly. Your children come home from school and ask if you are recycling. Gas prices rise and you consider getting a plug-in hybrid. Whole Foods has banned plastic, and some communities are charging extra for trash bags. Rooftops and landfills are becoming sources of energy as solar panels become more accessible. The local farmer is becoming a local hero. Even so, the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change announced its most recent findings on the impact that human activity has had on our planet. With a warming atmosphere, receding glaciers, rising oceans, and disappearing natural resources, it is sobering when we think about our collective responsibility for the mess we are in, and our personal responsibility to try and reverse this seemingly irreversible trend.
It can be tempting either to brush the problem aside and focus on other things, or to try to do everything at once. We are seized by either an environmental nihilism - “the earth is dead and we killed it”, or a kind of “green guilt” with a side of existential angst - “I can't afford the gas, but I can't afford the hybrid!” Neither response is particularly constructive. People are similarly ambivalent about gardening.
But as I said before, every garden begins with soil, with maybe a few gardeners to plant the seeds.
If you were on campus last Thursday afternoon, you might have seen a team of four seventh and eighth grade boys digging up a small bush by the lower elementary classrooms and transplanting it over by the middle school. You might have seen or heard a couple of nearby girls hammering 2x4 supports into garden beds they constructed the week before, and two more turning peat moss into the soil of an already completed raised bed. Near the Upper Elementary classrooms, you would certainly have seen Aline weeding a newly planted garden bed with a pair of students, and Barbara supervising some girls repainting the peace pole. On the way up to the recess field, you would have seen a couple of boys clearing out the little pond area and pulling the broken liner out of its purchase in the soil, or another team screening finished compost from last year, or yet another team of students hauling wheelbarrows full of dirt up the hill to fill in divots in the playing area. At some point, you would have seen these hardworking middle school students taking a break from their work to join together and eat a snack of local apples, cheese, and bread prepared by their classmates. Such is an afternoon with the middle school farming program.
The young women and men of LMS have begun planting seeds of a green future in our school and community. They may not be moving mountains, but they are moving soil, and taking care of that soil. As they learn to use tools and grow vegetables, their contribution to the foundation of a sustainable campus is not only meaningful to the community, but also a radical statement of their independence. The future is theirs, and they get to grow it.