Gateway Garden

I participated in hosting the Edible Gardens Tour last weekend. This is an event put on by Slow Food Santa Cruz, where local residents showcase their local edible landscapes. It is a time where neighbors open their gardens and share their experiences in growing their own food. I was slated to visit a couple sites in the morning to check in and make sure they were set up and had any questions and needs tended to (the event typically draws about 200 people) before the day began, but I decided to stay at the first site for nearly an hour and a half, simply because I was stunned by what I saw. This site was the Life Lab Garden at the Gateway School, where my friend Caprice Potter is the garden educator. Caprice started this garden nearly 30 years ago, and what she has created there is nothing short of magic.

gateway garden figWhen I arrived at the Gateway School Garden, the space was already buzzing with students. About half of the stations had been set up, and the kids were using their peers as their test subjects as they offered critiques and honed their message for the visitors to come.

IMG_5534As I walked around with Caprice, my questions constantly took a back seat to the endless stream of kids running up to her with questions of their own. I deferred to them each time because I loved hearing what they asked her. They inquired about the best way to set up their station, asking, for example, “should I make signs?”, to which Caprice would answer “do you want to make signs? If you think it will help, you should, go ahead!” Then they would skip away, empowered and excited to and start creating again.

IMG_5542This was my first experience in a while of seeing such creative gardening and garden educating—especially through the eyes of kids. I did not realize that the students would be leading this tour, and they came through with competence, grace, and maturity.

IMG_5540I have been working the last two years with farmers, who have their own set of business needs and (where I am, in California) serious water rights battles, equipment and land tenure concerns, and their livelihoods to support.

But I had forgotten the one very special aspect of growing food: the magic.

IMG_5535This was the magic that drew me to work with food in the first place, and I was moved by seeing the kids get giddy over spotting and then saving a frog in the rainwater catchment system,

IMG_5538hearing their highly polished and insightful explanations of bio-filtration and of compost,

IMG_5553of how cool and complex the garden’s rainwater catchment system was,

IMG_5555and how they loved to eat and share food from the garden, especially its fresh sunflower seeds: “the perfect snack.”

IMG_5536

I can only imagine what amazing learning experiences are still to come for these young people, and I am so grateful to this garden: The Gateway School Garden, an outdoor classroom which I hope will continue to be a gateway for such capable and hope-filled young people.

IMG_5558 And finally as I walked out of the Gateway School Garden and onto the next edible gardens, I spotted my favorite plant, the healing and oh-so special asclepias.IMG_5560And so the healing was affirmed, and I walked out with the best kinds of feelings in my heart—those of utter hope for a beautiful and bright future.

ALL Photos Were Taken by Liz Birnbaum and are SUBJECT TO CREATIVE COMMONS LICENSE. THANK YOU!
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