In Events, Improvements, Partners, Uncategorized on February 22, 2014 at 7:34 am
By now you will have heard that the farm has something of a reprieve in that talk about “relocating” has also included an understanding that if any construction and development is indeed going to take place at the farm site (still an ongoing discussion, including the illogicality of moving to a possible adjacent space), it may take 12 to 18 months before anything happens.
What does this mean? It means that we can move ahead and prepare the farm for the upcoming 2014 season and further consolidate the farm’s importance as a community hub and unique opportunity for our students to be empowered by growing and eating their own food!
As many gardeners know, Winter is hardly a time for sitting back and waiting for Spring, but should be the period when much of the needed repairs, renovations, and maintenance are completed prior to the Spring surge. While we have moved the debate from shutdown towards reprieve, much of this needed work was not completed so in order to re-energise our initiative we are asking everybody to recruit, cajole, bully, bribe, or otherwise encourage all your groups and supporters to volunteer for a massive Community Action Day on Saturday, March 8th from 9am to 3pm.
We have a ton of work to do which will primarily involve spreading compost, and weeding and tilling all our fields and peripheral areas. We will arrange for the school building to be open to cater to bathroom needs, and we will provide tools and gloves for all.
In Events, Kids on the Farm on November 2, 2013 at 8:36 am
The “pumpkin patch” pre-invasion!
Every year the culmination of the year’s growing season is our Harvest Day parade when the whole school celebrates the last day of October. As the school parades around our community in fancy dress, the Pre-School and Pre-Kindergarten classes peel off and make their way to the Farm to harvest pumpkins.
Throughout the growing season (seeds planted July 14th, pumpkins cut form the vine October 21st to cure ~ see Inside the Numbers for a few more details) our youngest students have been following the progress of their pumpkins from the first flowers (an important concept introduced at that time is dioecy where members of the Cucurbitaceae family have both male and female flowers), pollination (our Farm’s honeybees and native bumblebee species always oblige with frequent visits to pumpkin flowers as instruction is ongoing), how the female flowers ovaries swell up to become future fruit, and the importance of beta-carotene in a balanced diet (“different colors on your dinner plate”) and whilst the botany of farm crops can become rather complex, “sowing the seeds” of certain biological concepts in young minds helps build a strong foundation for their science knowledge.
Members of the Cucurbitaceae are dioecious, having both male and female flowers
One of our native pollinators (there are about 4,000 species of native bee in North America) searching for pollen and nectar
First fruits (technically a botanical “berry”)~ with successful pollination and fertilization, the ovary on the female flower starts to swell and the petals fall
In addition, supported by a few well-chosen books, the pumpkin crop allows us to also introduce a number of other natural history concepts (Ten Seeds by Ruth Brown ~ “root”, “shoot”, “seedling”) and to continue to develop community values (Pumpkin Soup by Helen Cooper ~ teamwork, friendship, and the fact that pumpkins are not just for carving at Hallowe’en but bona-fide edible crops that provide nutrition too!)
But in the end, the day’s main event created some of their strongest memories!
In Events, Kids on the Farm on October 27, 2013 at 10:25 am
This past Friday, we hosted the first session of this year’s teachers professional development series titled “Ultra Urban Green” for the DC3 Collaborative (nine DC Public Schools) which covers both the theory and the practice of incorporating meaningful environmental projects in schools, from growing crops to bug hotels, from wet beds (raised beds that house wetland plants for Anacostia and Potomac wetland restoration) to composting, from greenroofs to other bioremediation projects such as raingardens. Of course the site here at Walker Jones does all of that and is continuing to expand so not only can education professionals come together to share ideas and planning, working examples of these initiatives are already in place. One of our growing projects is apiculture; this was the substance of the day’s training.
Last year we started our Junior Beekeepers initiative, generously supported by Whole Foods Market at P St NW and also the DC Beekeeper Alliance, when we trained students from Walker Jones, as well as from Maury and Mann elementary schools to keep bees. As we already have three mature beehives on the Farm itself, and a further four located on the school’s greenroof, giving the students hands-on experience, and now extending this learning opportunity to more teachers, will not only expose students to this exciting experience , but is also contributing to the establishment of urban honeybees to counter the plight of this most valuable crop pollinator.
The success of our Junior Beekeepers initiative was underlined by how several of our students gave up their day off school to come demonstrate, and in turn to educate the educators themselves!
This was also an opportunity to share some of the excellent lesson plans and student materials created by entomologist and Curator of the Cornwall Public Library in New York, Louise Lynch.
To learn a little bit more about the beekeeping work our students already engage in, please take a look at last moth’s blog post “The Keeping of Bees is like the Direction of Sunbeams”
In Events, Happy Moments, Partners on June 29, 2013 at 9:46 am
This Saturday we hosted 200 volunteers on the Farm, a moonbounce, music, free tacos from Rito Loco, and free Ben & Jerry’s icecream featuring the roll-out of DC’s own flavor ~ Capitol Chill: chocolate icecream with Divine Chocolate conrnflake clusters, marshmallow and caramel swirls, and Rout 11 sweet potato chips!
In Events, Happy Moments on November 12, 2012 at 11:43 pm
We teach our great kids many things about the food they help grow on the farm, but the one thing they constantly remind us adults of is that the farm is a very FUN place to be. You see, magical things happen there. Mounds of dirt and a handful of seeds turn into big delicious things to eat and enjoy. So for the sheer fun of it, each year we plant pumpkins and lots of them in anticipation of one of the most fun days of the year – Halloween. The first year we were moderately successful and we had 50 or so gorgeous little pumpkins for the kids to take home and enjoy at school both visually and as tasty treats. In year two, they came a bit too early and suffered from the nasty pumpkin rot that afflicted so many growers in the area last year. But this year…. We hit the pumpkin jackpot! We started with a brand new bed just for our round orange babies. A pie shaped bed. We know this is a little silly but we serve the needs of children. We know the power of silly.
The vines went mad all through August and then came the flowers.
And then the dark green babies.
And then lots and lots of orange.
Until Halloween saw the gathering of well over 100 pumpkins. They were everywhere!
And made this day the happiest of celebrations! A celebration of not just the treats and mischief associated with the day but a celebration of the gifts our farm gives us.
In Events on July 27, 2011 at 9:06 pm
On July 12, the Farm, in partnership with DC Greens, welcomed author Sharon Gamson Danks to our campus to discuss her book, Asphalt to Ecosystems: Design Ideas for Schoolyard Transformation. Danks held the attention of approximately 70 guests with ease as she presented examples of schools around the world that have transformed their play areas from uninspired, cookie cutter spaces to ecologically rich environments that encourage imagination and interaction.
After the presentation, the guests moved from inside the school to the farm where they enjoyed some light summer fare prepared with farm produce by Chef Allison Sosna from DC Central Kitchen who will be in charge of food services for the school this coming year.
It was our honor and pleasure to host this event, the first of what we hope to be many gatherings that embrace partnerships and best practices in bringing sustainable environments to our students and the larger community. Many, many thanks to Sharon Danks, Chef Allison, Daniel Thaeler from Whole Foods P Street, Lauren Biel from DC Greens and our small army of enthusiastic volunteers who made it all happen.
In Events, Partners on July 8, 2011 at 1:56 am
Right now on the farm, we are growing a huge variety of vegetables and fruits including tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, swiss chard, turnips, cucumbers, squash, zucchini, watermelon, canteloupe, green beans, lima beans, pole beans, lettuces, carrots, beets, basil and other herbs, zinnias and sunflowers. In the fall we will have pumpkins, winter squash, sweet potatoes, fingerling and russet potatoes, spinach, a few varieties of kale and collards. Does that sound like a lot of food? It is.
Come out to see us, and bring a bag. And a friend. Or two. Have we mentioned how fast cucumbers and squash grow?
In Events, Kids on the Farm on June 7, 2011 at 11:41 pm
When Alice Deal Middle School assistant principal, Simon Rodberg, contacted us about bringing a group of seventh grade students out to the farm for a community service day, we were more than happy to accept the offer. Our excitement about the partnership proved more than warranted today as approximately 20 hardworking kids dug into a list of chores that could have been the undoing of even our most stalwart volunteers. Curious about what they accomplished?
– wood chipped pathways between rows
– pruned and fertilized the herb garden
– planted sweet potatoes and winter squash
– added compost to squash transplants
– mulched the strawberry beds with straw
– painted farm signs
– staked and pruned tomato plants
– weeded pathways and rows
– watered all the crops and the fig trees
– harvested lettuce to take home
They also got a farm tour, introduction to urban agriculture, and an overview of the crops and the methods we are using to cultivate an organic food supply. And enjoyed a picnic lunch on the farm. We had the honor of hosting some new friends to the farm, and seeing first hand what a significant impact the annual Deal Gives Back community service day can have for those lucky partners to whom they reach out. Many thanks to them all!
In Events, Partners on May 11, 2011 at 8:34 pm
Getting dirty for good. That is what the invitation said. On May 1, Peloton Projects and the Awesome Foundation teamed up to support the Farm at Walker Jones. And the amount of work accomplished was indeed awesome! Beds were turned over.
Structures were built to support our baby tomato plants.
Strange things were unearthed from the ground to be replaced with sunflowers seeds that will become the sunflower house we dreamed about.
So much work! But hard work and personal sacrifice demand rewards. So there were cupcakes and other goodies on site.
And a happy hour off-site later that afternoon where some much-appreciated fundraising for the farm took place. We were really touched by the investment this lovely group of people made in our farm, and by extension, in our students and their well-being. Many thanks for all that awesomeness!
In Events on April 4, 2011 at 12:51 am
After wintering over, it felt like we were back to square one with the farm. We kept our chins up, we planned and planned, but it was not until this week that some of those plans became realities. We started with a fresh mow and border weed removal. After taking Will Allen’s advice last week to allow the collard and kale beds to remain intact at least for the time being, we had the other two rectangular beds tilled. Quite a job. But the real magic happened today when with little more than the promise of a new farm t-shirt and a hot dog from Whole Foods, tons of our farm friends showed up to help make our farm a more beautiful place.
The weed warriors dug in in earnest to rid our greens and herb patches of nutrient stealing enemies.
And the other extremely hardworking team set about defining our new rows, amending them with compost, and establishing new paths in between rows that are a full 18 inches across to accommodate all our young farmers. The new paths are defined with wood chips so as to make it clear where people walk and where plants live.
We will all be out on the farm again next Sunday from 12-4 with lunch and t-shirts and high hopes. Consider joining us? We would love to work alongside you and tell you about the full scope of our plans – a three sisters labyrinth bed, the bee enclosure, classroom seating, the persimmon trees, the chickens. It is all coming, but we would love your help in making it all happen just a little faster. Many thanks to all for today – families, friends, students and the fantastic Master Gardeners from UDC!