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Organic garden program grows in Fallbrook schools

How about some good news for a change about our schools? Did you know that the surge for garden programs in the schools across this nation are like the victory gardens of WWII? The enthusiasm is expanding. The rewards are slowly starting to show how dynamic this aspect of education can be on the rest of the school curriculum.

Last month, my article was on horticultural therapy, active and passive, through exposure to the garden. How it builds self-esteem, self-worth, goal-setting and achieving, increases decision-making, problem-solving and the list goes on and on. How wonderful such a simple thing as a garden can do all that and more.

Not only that, but our gardens are all organic (no chemicals). We have zero tolerance for toxic materials near our food or our kids. Did you know that even slight exposure to farm and industrial chemicals can increase chances by 70 percent of getting Parkinson’s disease in our later years (from a study by Harvard School of Medicine)?

Also, the combination of chemical fertilizers, fungicides, herbicides and pesticides form a toxic cocktail that produces learning disabilities and aggressive behavior (from University of Wisconsin at Madison school of agriculture).

We avoid this and are teaching our kids, kindergarten through Ivy High School, the basic lesson that organic and natural are better. The kids love it; they can eat carrots right from the garden, peas and tomatoes off the vine and fresh strawberries. Tough high school boys many times eat hot peppers straight from the plant. We don’t teach or advocate that kind of brave behavior but have fun watching them go for it.

We love to watch all kids participate in planting, harvesting and eating foods and salads prepared from the garden.

In South Central Los Angeles is a high school called Crenshaw High School. They have had a garden program for more than 15 years called “Food from the Hood.” Between 80 and 90 percent of the gardeners go to college, compared with only 12 percent from the main student body. This is not a scientific study, but a tremendous achievement.

Gang problems, drug problems and violence on school campuses are well known through the media. They make for news that sells. It is not what a strong society needs to dwell on but what we have become accustomed to.

A garden program is not sensational but is more spectacular than all that other reporting. We hope that gardening can change some of that behavior, if we can create more gardens for more students.

Whether or not we get the same press as the negative news, we love the reaction we are achieving on the grassroots level. Maybe we can help the education system by raising the enthusiasm of the students, teachers, administrators and parents enough to help put us back on track.

Horticultural therapy proves the power of the garden; our gardens prove the power of horticultural therapy. We do hope, as we have said in the past, to copy the program at Ivy High School with hundreds of tangerine trees on each campus and provide a viable alternative to the vending machine. The varieties of Gold Nugget and Clementine tangerines produce from January to June an abundant quantity of fruit that is easy to peel and delicately sweet.

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