Union Hill’s garden grows community
Special to The Union
The Union Hill School garden has been getting a makeover, and the effects are rippling out into the community.
This past fall, Union Hill welcomed a new farm-to-school liaison, Uta Reimnitz. Uta and her family moved here two years ago, and since then she’s been sharing her enthusiasm for fresh local food by becoming involved in Sierra Harvest’s Farm to School program.
With a background running the school garden at her son’s preschool, and a degree in environmental studies, Reimnitz has been energizing the school community around the garden, with the help of an encouraging administration and staff.
“Principal Limov has been super supportive,” Reimnitz said. “When we originally spoke about me becoming the farm-to-school liaison, he asked me if I had any interest in getting the school garden going again. After I said yes, he was out there the next afternoon with his own weed whacker getting started.”
The energy around the garden has impacted the school’s garden cart as well. As part of Farm-to-School, each school runs its own garden cart stocked with fresh, local produce from the school’s farm partner, in this case Starbright Acres Family Farm, as well as any fresh fruit and veggie donations from the school community at large.
Union Hill is the largest kindergarten through eighth grade school in the area, with over 700 students. In the past it has been difficult for the cart to provide enough produce to serve everyone, but now the garden is helping to provide some of the extra bounty.
This year, the fifth grade garden club would go to the garden and help harvest cherry tomatoes at lunchtime for the cart the next day. Additionally, Reimnitz was able to reach out to many grandparents through the school community who had productive gardens and were able to help stock the cart.
While a bountiful, intergenerational, donation-based school garden cart may seem too good to be true, that’s exactly what happened. Grandparents were trading veggies, and kids were coming to school with money specifically for produce. The cart was selling out in record time. (All proceeds go back to supporting Farm-to-School programming at Union Hill School.)
Alas, with the change in weather, the cart is done for this season, but the garden remains and its energy is continuing to build. Reimnitz and her parent volunteers just finished teaching a seed saving lesson, and there are plans to build more raised beds for the garden.
Older students are helping with garden projects as community service. Reimnitz is preparing lessons so Union Hill teachers and students can take full advantage of this outdoor classroom. Numerous parents have volunteered to be garden docents and help teach in the garden. It is truly a community effort due in part to Reimnitz’s leadership.
To learn more about Sierra Harvest’s Farm-to-School program, visit http://www.sierraharvest.org If you would like to make a gift to support school garden and orchard programs, please call 530-265-2343 or donate online at http://www.sierraharvest.org/give.
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