Garden-based lessons support farms, academics in Oregon school

By Susan Parrish, The La Grande Observer

NORTH POWDER — Standing in North Powder Charter School’s garden, Desiree McGinn climbed onto a raised bed to address the 24 students who gathered around her. Onions, potatoes, kale, bell peppers, carrots and tomatoes were ready to be harvested by the students on a recent Monday afternoon.

“You know how I carry seeds around in my pocket all the time?” said McGinn, who is the school’s FoodCorps service member. “I think I spilled some pumpkin seeds in the hoop house (a greenhouse). The pumpkins have taken over in there. So watch your step when you’re picking tomatoes.”

Then she divided the students into groups to harvest the vegetables they had planted in the spring. For the last group, she had a special task.

“Do you want to feed the chickens?” McGinn asked.

Off they ran to the chicken coop while their classmates picked up shovels and spades and set to work harvesting veggies.

“Sometimes it can get a little bit crazy,” McGinn laughed. “It’s nice to let them take ownership.”

McGinn works with students in the school garden to help provide school-grown produce for healthy school meals. Under McGinn’s direction, the students plant seeds, tend the garden and harvest the produce. About 80 percent of the garden’s produce is used in the school kitchen for school lunches. Eventually, the kids will eat the produce they were harvesting.