Remember this photo taken a few weeks ago on February 25th?

You May Recall...

Now take a look at the latest stage of life for this vegetable bed.  Yes, a beginning is born!  Over at the Bellevue Garden, we have been clearing away the old, dead bits and turning over the soil.  Here we planted greens and beans with more to come.  The scallions mark the water lines of the sprinklers, so those stay.  (Ahem, lesson learned.)

Well, We've Only Just Begun...

It’s all possible because of the expertise and elbow grease of the head gardener, Jimmy.  Here he puts in the first seeds of 2010.  The garden crew and community can’t wait to see what it all becomes.  Happy Springtime, dear readers.

Fresh Dirt and New Seeds

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On a recent walk with my good friend, urban environmentalist Kate Zidar, our boots made cracking noises on the ice underfoot. I can’t wait to hear the soft sounds of loose dirt come springtime.

Despite the cold, the community of people who want to change food in America is gathering. Some say it’s a fad, but I know this movement has staying power. One way we’ll dig deep for the long haul is through the work of visionaries like Alice Waters and her Edible Schoolyard programs. In these programs, increasing in size and number every year, students plant gardens to learn where food comes from and how it grows.

There’s another common and untapped place for good food and nutrition: the hospital. Here we have people often in the most dire health of their lives. Yet, when it comes time to build them up nutritionally, we serve enriched white bread slices, individually wrapped in plastic.

Yes, it’s true that most hospitals are private businesses, whereas schools are often public. Regardless, food is elemental to our health, and no where is that more important than in a hospital. This summer we will create an edible garden at Bellevue Hospital in New York City. We plan to grow greens and other vegetables as part of the Bellevue Sobriety Garden. For years, the garden has been a place of peace and quiet for hospital outpatients in recovery from addiction. Soon it will also be a place of urban agriculture, both by and for the hospital community. Here are photos of what the space looked like a few days ago – want to help us create what it will look like this summer?

Entryway

Long view

Come sunshine, these will be vegetable beds

Long View, Looking Back

Hang in there, Piggy! Not too much longer...

Knowing where our food comes from is about slowing down.  So let me begin with the fog.

It comes in the night and settles into the mountain.  When daylight opens, it lingers to watch.  On this autumn morning, the fog is the quiet keeper of the garden, Project Sprout, at the base of Monument Mountain in Great Barrington, Massachusetts.

Morning at the Garden

Morning at Project Sprout

The garden was started in the way of many lesser ambitions:  high school students talking in the hall between class.  Yet one student’s simple observation was the catalyst for something extraordinary.

“I realized that our biology class never went outside in the whole year.  It didn’t make sense.  And food is our closest connection to the natural world,” said Sam Levin, Class of 2011 at Monument Mountain Regional High School.

Sam, along with two other students, Nathalie Akers and Sarah Steadman, started the garden two years ago as a way to relate to their environment.  With the encouragement of Mike Powell, a guidance counselor who also leads the school’s Green Team, they partnered with a local non-profit group, Project Native.  Since then, they have gained one part-time staff member, Bridghe McCracken, a landscape designer who specializes in organic gardens, and a team of regular volunteers.  Project Sprout now grows fresh produce for the nearby elementary, middle and high schools.  At the height of its recent harvest, the garden produced 200 pounds of vegetables each week for the school cafeterias.  On average, the garden yields anywhere from 50-100 pounds weekly.

“I would never have expected to do this before.  I find it fun coming to the cafeteria knowing that I helped harvest and grow this food.  It just boggles my mind.  Now I feel sure of what I’m eating,” said garden volunteer Isabel Mitchell, Class of 2012.

Project Sprout is also an outdoor classroom for the middle school gardening class and the high school greenhouse class.  The elementary kids make regular visits, too.

“It’s powerful for a young person to watch a seed become food.  A kindergartener will try a spicy radish, for example, when they have been a part of growing it.  They would have never eaten one before,” said Bridghe, “I think growing food is essential to understanding our place in the world.”

On the day I visited, the volunteers were planting leeks and arugula, among other things, to be harvested in February.  As the winter comes in, they will protect the garden with a moveable hoop house.  Every aspect of the garden–organic planting and rain water irrigation, for example–contributes to its mission of environmentally-conscious living.  “We’re beyond carbon neutral,” explained Bridghe with a chuckle.

Now the team is armed with a 10-year plan; in six years, this will include fruit from their newly-planted apple tree orchard.  The students of Project Sprout will do it all: plantings, fund-raising events, field harvesting at 6:45 am, and more.

“What means the most to me is that it’s student run.  People think we just sit around and play video games all day,” said Sam.

Shelling Soybeans & Learning Early

Shelling Soybeans & Learning Early

Planting for Winter Harvest

Planting for Winter Harvest

Rainbow Chard Ready To Go

Rainbow Chard Ready To Go

These Apple Trees Will Have Fruit for the Class of 2015

These Apple Trees Will Have Fruit for the Class of 2015