As fall descends on New England, DCD’s garden continues to bear fruit, allowing students to harvest and enjoy freshly grown late-season produce during lunch.
This is the third season for the garden, a gift from the parents of the class of 2013 that has been giving back in both fresh produce and lessons for the children in garden stewardship.
The garden includes four raised, fenced beds of vegetables. Cold frames are installed in November for the winter season. In its first year, hands-on instruction in planting and maintaining the garden was provided as part of the Eighth Grade parent gift.
DCD students plant the garden in the spring, and during the summer months, students in the Horizons program spend a good deal of time maintaining it—weeding, watering, and picking whatever is in season. Once school starts in the fall, DCD students are able to avail themselves of the garden’s bounty.
Despite its small size, the garden still has an impact. Head Chef Jack O’Donnell says the children participate in all stages from seed to harvest. “The kids start it as a seed, see it grow, and then get to eat it.”
These lessons are incorporated into the curriculum in various ways. Fourth Grade teacher Kelly Kennedy, who chairs the garden committee, says she has taken her class out to harvest and weed, and science teacher Sue Shirley has included visits to the garden as part of her classes.
The garden has produced lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, peas, kale, carrots, radishes, and pumpkins, as well as herbs, such as mint, basil, and parsley. “We’ve served everything at one time or another,” Jack says. “It’s small amounts. There’s not a lot. You’d need a farm to feed 250 people every day, but we incorporate it into what we normally serve.”
Children also participate in composting, bringing fruit and vegetables left over from lunch to a special bin in the cafeteria whose contents will eventually make its way to the compost heap. “We fill it up so fast. In the springtime, we’ll add that into the garden,” Jack says.
This year, the school is taking part in the national Farm-to-School program. In addition to receiving fresh local produce on a regular basis from its usual supplier, Russo’s of Watertown, Jack says he’s also begun stopping at farms in Millis and Canton to pick up local produce to add to the lunch program.
As far as budget goes, the cost of farm stand produce is roughly the same, he says, and he’s happy to be able to expand the offerings at lunch. “It’s great to have locally grown food; it’s fresher, and it tastes better.” As freshly picked carrots make their way from the DCD garden to be washed and cut and then get gobbled up, it’s clear the children agree.