Grass Valley Charter School’s organic garden a lesson in hard work, self sufficiency
For Crosbie Walsh, the need for an on-campus garden goes beyond harvesting organic food.
Walsh, the Grass Valley Charter School garden coordinator the past 15 months, has done a lot. He plans to do a lot more.
“In a couple of months hopefully we’ll see a complete learning center and a thriving garden where kids can learn about the natural processes,” he said. “We’re going to have a stream table where kids can learn about stream formation and erosion.”
It’s tough for Walsh to be too active right now. He’s on paternity leave until the first of the year, and he’s already itching to get back to his oasis.
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“This space is for a lot of things,” he said. “But the reason I’m here is I want people to know how to grow their own food. The kids love it. And another reason it’s here is to teach them the value of hard work. I think that’s incredibly valuable.
“To have a good sense of work ethic. What I’ve been mainly focused on is getting the kids out here and getting their hands dirty. You give them a little shovel and their eyes light up. It instills a sense of pride in our school, and I hope it instills a sense of self sufficiency.”
Grass Valley Charter principal Scott Maddock wasn’t looking for someone to revolutionize anything when he hired Walsh. He wanted someone to manage the school’s garden.
He got lucky.
“It’s safe to say when we stumbled across Crosbie we found a diamond in the rough,” Maddock said. “We were looking for a gardening coordinator. What we got his a jack of all trades. It’s not just gardening and farming, but he has a real do-it-yourself mentality that fits right in with what we do. He helps kids realize this is something they can do at home. He’s making that real.”
Other future plans include a complete learning center and a thriving garden where kids can learn about natural processes. There’s going to be a stream table where students can learn about stream formation and erosion. He also plans a geology wall where kids can learn about the process of rock and mineral formation as well as different types of rocks and seismic activity.
“In the long run, we’re going to have a scale model of a watershed where kids can learn about what a watershed is and what that means.”
Essentially, Walsh explained, impacts on a watershed can be felt throughout drainage from a ridgeline all the way down to the ocean.
“So our scale model is going to lead from every mountain that feeds the Yuba River all the way down through the river out to the ocean,” he said. “So it’s important for the kids to understand if you dump your car’s oil way up in the Sierra that is eventually going to affect everything below it.
“And so it’s important to teach students about that process so they can be good stewards. And stewardship is one of the core values of our school.”
Walsh said his garden is one of a growing network of similar projects that includes The Edible School Yard Project in Berkeley and Life Lab in Santa Cruz. He also mentioned the important work locally of Sierra Harvest, whose mission is to educate, inspire and connect Nevada County families to fresh, local, seasonal food.
What Walsh would like to see is a growing interest locally.
“I dream in years to come that more students in this community have an awareness of where food comes from and the importance of eating organic food,” he said. “I would love to see this space opened up for field trips for other schools in the school district. Not only that. We’ve been focused on schools in the district first. I’d like to see it opened up to schools throughout the county. That’s the long-term goal.”
Maddock sees the same possibilities.
“We had a parent-teacher club meeting out in the garden in October,” Maddock said. “They move around to different sites. He spoke about our program and our vision, and a lot of it had to do with, once we establish the infrastructure, we want to use it for schools around the county.”
And, Walsh said, there’s another benefit in growing your own food.
“Anybody who knows how to grow their own food is going to be more resilient in times of shortage than people who can’t,” Walsh said. “For a long time in my 20s that was a huge motivator. It was simply self reliance.”
To contact Staff Writer Stephen Roberson, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 530-477-4236.
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