- Author: Deborah Schnur
FoodCorps has held a special place in my heart ever since I served as a FoodCorps service member at Phelan Elementary during the 2019-2020 school year. It was hard work and also immensely rewarding to connect kids with healthy food and share the joy of gardening. I loved seeing the smiles on students' faces when they harvested their first tomato from the school garden and tasted their first “rainbow” smoothie.
FoodCorps' mission is to “partner with schools and communities to nourish kids' health, education, and sense of belonging.” Their vision is that “every child, in every school, experiences the joy and power of food”. As a member of the AmeriCorps network, FordCorps provides leadership and educational opportunities for service members in limited-resource communities. In addition, FoodCorps advocates for policy change to promote equity and sustainability in the school food environment.
The Service Member's Role
Service members must complete at least 1700 service hours during an 11-month term. They are paid a living stipend and receive a Segal Education Award after successfully completing their term. Those who serve in California also receive a California for All Education Award.
FoodCorps service members focus on three main areas of impact: leading hands-on lessons, influencing nourishing school meals, and building a schoolwide culture of health. In the first area, they teach students to grow, prepare, and taste new foods with interactive lessons linked to academic standards. To influence school meals, service members conduct taste tests, promote healthy food choices in the cafeteria, and work with school district administrators and staff to add local foods to school meals. To build a culture of health, service members collaborate with the entire school community–including teachers, administrators, and families–to plan activities such as family cooking nights and garden work days.
Master Gardeners Help with Garden Training
FoodCorps service members start the school year with a wide range of gardening and farming experience. Some have majored in agriculture, and others have grown only houseplants. Most are expected to start or maintain gardens at the schools where they serve.
To provide their service members with a basic level of gardening know-how, FoodCorps site supervisors in Los Angeles (Rachel Black), Upland (Cassidy Furnari), and San Diego (Janelle Manzano) planned a joint garden training class. Cassidy, the Upland Unified School District (UUSD) Farm to School Manager, asked the San Bernardino County Master Gardeners to help deliver the training at Baldy View Elementary, which has an extensive vegetable garden, native plant garden, and orchard. Maggie O'Neill, the Master Gardener Coordinator, and I were excited to accept the challenge and prepare for the class.
For the next half-hour, I led a hands-on demonstration of how to teach composting to students. I asked the service members to line up and add greens (food waste) to the compost bins followed by browns (mulch). Then everyone took turns watering the compost piles and turning them with shovels. That's all there was to it! To continue the decomposition process, compost needs to be watered and turned on a regular basis. For reference, I gave the service members copies of a composting resource sheet and my favorite compost guide from LA Compost.
After the training, the FoodCorps service members, site supervisors, and Master Gardeners gathered for a healthy lunch including figs, tomatoes, cucumbers, and squash harvested from the Upland school gardens. A fitting end to a productive day! I hope this experience inspires some of the service members to become Master Gardeners in the future.
Meet the Upland USD FoodCorps Service Members
Valerie Tu has returned for a second year with FoodCorps after spending a year as a Fullbright Scholar and English Teaching Assistant in Taiwan. She is teaching at Baldy View Elementary and Citrus Elementary. During her first year at UUSD in 2020-2021, Valerie's interaction with the students was entirely virtual due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Valerie graduated from the New York University Gallitin School of Individualized Study with a Bachelor of Arts, concentrating on the politics of food. While studying at NYU, she also worked as a farm operations intern, a resident assistant, and a culinary intern at the Museum of Food and Drink among other activities.
I am so grateful to Valerie, Meagan, and all the FoodCorps service members who devote a year or more to promoting food justice in schools and communities across the county. Last school year, FoodCorps service members taught 15,000 lessons, led 6,000 food tastings, and supported over 350 gardens nationwide. In four Upland schools, approximately 1,400 students received biweekly FoodCorps programming, and nearly 2,000 students participated in lunchtime activities and engagement during the school year. Through these types of hands-on learning activities, service members will help FoodCorps reach its goal for every child to have access to food education and nourishing food in school by 2030.
Have you enjoyed reading this blog? Do you have questions? Need help with school gardens or environmental education? If so, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. I look forward to hearing from you.
Emy joined our UCCE San Bernardino County Master Gardener team during our first online training ever in 2020. She jumped right in and was excited to learn all about gardening and to share her passion for gardening with her peers. As we got to know each other online during class it was clear that she had a connection to gardening that went beyond just the horticultural aspects to include how gardening can change our lives and the connections we can have with our family and loved ones through the plants they grew. When pandemic restrictions began to lift, and we were able to work more directly with the community, Emy was able to get out to the community as a newly certified Master Gardener and stated seeing what the possibilities were in her new role. We always hope, as community members join our Master Gardener team and become volunteers, that they connect us to needs and opportunities that they are aware of in their community and Emy did just that. Right away she saw how the program could support some organizations she has worked with in the past and brought in fellow volunteers to get some gardening going. Our volunteers are an invaluable resource for knowing the needs of their own communities so that we can go where we are needed. Many of our outreach activities also include our Master Food Preservers and Emy was excited to learn more about that program too. She loved how Master Gardeners helped people grow their own food, and Master Food Preservers helped them to preserve it safely. Her and her husband are now enrolled in the Master Food Preserver program so that they can have an even greater impact on their community through education and sharing of resources on gardening and safe food preservation. Emy's soft spoken determination to improve the lives of her community members, both physically and emotionally, makes her a wonderful Master Gardener (and human!). She gardens with a heart and shares that heart with all she comes in contact with. Encouraging people to try it themselves and providing them with the information they need to be successful. All those who come in contact with Emy know that if they have any questions or need any support that Emy and her fellow Mater Gardeners are here to help!
Why did you decide to be a MG?
When I was working at the AAA Speedway in Fontana, every time we had an event, I'd always tell the caterers to give me the produce that they were about to throw away. One day, they finally asked me why and I told them, "It's because I have worms!" After seeing the shocked look on their faces, my boss and I laughed, and she told them that I have composting worms. Then one of them said that she was a Master Gardener, told me about the program as I had never heard about it before. We exchanged numbers and emails, but it wasn't until I was taking an EFNEP Class through our granddaughter's school and the teacher mentioned the Master Gardener Program that I really thought about it again. Excited to find out that was available in our area, I signed up!
What are your gardening passions?
We'll, as I previously mentioned, I'm NUTS about our worms! I treat them as our babies! We've given them out to many friends and relatives as birthday and Christmas gifts! My first workday as a Master Gardener was at Kimbark Elementary School in Devore. Cass Henderson and I were digging out the old soil from one of the raised beds. I told her not to think I'm crazy if I stop to save a worm! We came across a few…all digging had to stop so I could pick the worm up to place it safely away from our shovels! I also LOVE fruit trees, any edible plants and anything related to gardening! I'm not allowed to
go to Home Depot, Lowe's, Costco or Sam's Club by myself, just in case I go crazy buying everything. I justify it by saying that it was on sale!
What do you think gardening gives back to our community and why do you think it's important for overall community health?
Interning a few months at Sarvodaya Farms, an organic teaching farm in Pomona changed my life! It helped me to see that gardening is healing, not only physically, but mentally, emotionally, and spiritually! Not to mention the joy it brings to be able to share your bounty with family, friends, and others. The food that comes from the garden tastes SO MUCH BETTER than store bought! I feel it's important to teach everyone, both young and old alike, the importance of growing your own food, especially through a time such as what's happening now.
Do you have any tips for the community about conserving water in the drought?
Mulch, mulch, mulch. And did I mention mulch? We actually use hay from our friends' goat ranch, so it also contains goat poo here and there. It doesn't smell and our plants and trees love it. And best of all, it's free!
What is a tidbit or two you've learned as a MG that the public reading our newsletter could gain from?
I love how it has upcoming events and Zoom Classes. The newsletter's free! It's great that it has tips that are pertinent for issues happening right now, being more mindful about your plants and trees during this drought, how deal with pests and what might one do to have a more successful garden.There's SO MUCH VALUABLE information that one can learn, but unfortunately, many people nowadays just want to get their information from social media or other platforms that they could just watch online through their TVs, pads, computers or phones, not knowing about our the great resources Master Gardeners provide.
What advice would you give someone considering becoming a UCCE MG?
Do it! Not only for yourself, but how you can help teach your family, friends, neighbors, and others! When we help each other, we too also get blessed!
Summers in most parts of San Bernardino County are hot, dry, windy, and sometimes extra challenging due to fires. Add on the layer of continued drought and water restrictions, and it can seem almost impossible to get a fruit or veggie crop to grow. On the other hand, we are fortunate to have good sunlight, lots of great soil, and a Mediterranean climate where we can get almost anything to grow if we give it enough attention and resources. I also always remind myself, that right now, at this very moment, someone in So CA is successfully growing all kinds of fruits and veggies, and you can do it too! Here are a few tips that will help you get the fruit and veggie crop of your dreams to become a reality.
So, is using water to grow food at home, at school, or in a community garden a responsible thing to do or should you buy produce at a farmers market or close-by market instead? Like most things, there are several factors to look at when making that decision. Growing your own fruits and veggies has a number of benefits. One of the main ones is that they are fresh! As soon as produce is harvested the flavors begin to change and nutrients begin to break down. The longer the time between harvest and consumption, the less flavorful – and sometimes less nutritional it becomes. At home, you can harvest your produce at its nutritional peak. Another benefit to growing food at home is reducing the food miles that your produce must travel, which saves time and energy and reduces the carbon footprint. Lastly, gardening has lots of physical and mental health benefits as well! Gardening and being outdoors and out of your head is great for your mind and body. It's also a wonderful family activity.
Let's start with looking at the responsible use of water in a drought. Fruits and veggies can still be watered anywhere in CA even under drought restrictions; they are exempt from those restrictions. And, they are not generally low water or drought tolerant plants, and they will need to be well watered in order to be successful. It might seem counter intuitive that watering your veggies well and as much as needed is a water conservation measure, but it's important to remember that if fruits and veggies are cared for poorly, inconsistently watered, and not kept healthy, they will not produce a lot of fruit. Perennial veggies, like asparagus, artichokes and a few others may be a little more drought tolerant and may be a good layer to add in an area with a lot of drought stress. Note these plants will still take additional water, like all other plants (including native plants), to establish in their first year. With that said, it's still a good idea for to conserve water whenever possible while producing a healthy crop! Suggestions are to add a layer of mulch on top of your garden to reduce soil evaporation and keep competing thirsty weeds out, water early in the morning to reduce evapotranspiration (water loss from the soil and plant), and hand water or use a soaker hose or drip irrigation system rather than a sprinkler system to conserve water. (Sprinklers apply water over a wide area, including between plants, which is often a wasteful practice.) Improper or inconsistent watering can cause cracking, bitterness, and may also result in fruit or blossom drop. Following proper cultural practices (applying the right amount of water and fertilizer at the right time, etc.) will help ensure you get the harvest you are looking for. Overfertilizing at a period of time when a certain crop doesn't need it can increase water use and be counterproductive. Pest infestations will also cause more stress on drought stressed plants. Piercing sucking insects like aphids and spider mites suck the juices right out of your plants, and will cause your
plants to go through more water. Using Integrated Pest Management strategies (IPM) and catching pests early will reduce the stress they put on your plants. Consider pulling plants that start succumbing to pests like spider mites if they are starting to lose the battle and will infest neighboring plants doing well, which also saves water. Mechanical barriers will help keep vertebrate pests, who are also looking for a good meals, especially in times of drought, away.
There are many types of veggies that are bred for heat tolerance, but there are limitations. Plant mechanisms for tolerating heat are often not the same as plant strategies to tolerate drought. Many fruits and veggies will still grow when it's very hot, but fruit production often slows down. Radiating heat from impervious surfaces like asphalt, cement, or decomposed granite can also slow down fruit production. This radiating heat can be reduced by raising pots up off the ground a few inches with a piece of wood, like a 2x4 for example. Solar radiation can be reduced by creating shade, using material that is manufactured to be used as shade cloth, or something as simple as a light-colored sheet in a hot spell. Note that while you can reduce heat on plants you want to make sure they still get 4 to 6 hours of sun for good production. They also need good aeration and access to pollinators so it's important to maintain good airflow!
Keeping your soil healthy:
Healthy soil that is full of beneficial organisms will help your plants grow and produce and there are a few things you can do to keep your soil happy, healthy, and hydrated! First, it's best to start with a well-draining and organic rich soil. Before planting, add a few inches of compost or other type of organic matter to the surface of your soil and mix it in at least 4 to 6 inches deep. (Making your own compost is highly recommended. It recycles tree trimmings, grass clipping and old landscape and garden plants and plant parts which also reduces the carbon footprint since it's all done at home!) This helps prevent water and nutrient loss below the root zone in sandy soil and improves drainage in heavier soils. Compost is a great soil amendment, helping to turn your dirt into living soil, but it's important to remember it's usually low in nutrients, so it's not a replacement for fertilizer. Once you have a nice soil, keeping those beneficial soil microorganisms healthy is important too. Mulch will help with that!
Reach out to our free UC Cooperative Extension Master Gardener Helpline to get your questions about home food production, composting, and all other home horticulture issues addressed: email@example.com (909)387-2182.
- Author: Deborah Schnur
In April, I attended the Growing School Gardens Summit in Denver, Colorado, thanks to support from UCCE San Bernardino. The conference was promoted as “a gathering to inform, inspire, and invigorate the school garden movement” and was hosted by the Sprouts Healthy Communities Foundation in partnership with LifeLab and the School Garden Support Organization (SGSO) Network. It was so exciting to meet school garden educators and influencers from across the country and return home with a suitcase full of seeds, handouts, business cards, and healthy snacks to motivate me for months to come! In this blog, I want to share my most memorable moments from the conference and give you an update on the Upland High School waste audit.
Growing Garden Leaders
Monthly webinar topics included planting with students, culinary connections, garden maintenance, seed saving, and composting. To keep trainees engaged remotely, a variety of tools and techniques were used: guest speakers, school and teacher spotlights, live demonstrations, breakout rooms, interactive group platforms, activity kits, Q&A sessions, and a social media group. I'm always looking for more tools to add to my environmental education toolbox! In addition, this type of “train the trainer” framework could be useful for our Master Gardener School Garden Committee.
Providing Effective Support to School Gardens
The “Growing Garden Leaders” workshop dovetailed nicely with another workshop held on the last day of the conference. “Providing Effective Support to School Gardens in Your Region” showed how to increase the impact and effectiveness of garden-based activities with limited capacity. Presented by the United States Botanic Garden and the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (both in Washington, D.C.), the session introduced the Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS) framework. This approach advocates building a strong foundation of “tier 1” activities that are available to everyone and disseminated widely. About 80 percent of those served will get what they need from tier 1. Two examples are a school garden guide and a monthly newsletter. The remaining 20 percent will need more support from tiers 2 and 3 such as group training or a site evaluation. This concept resonated with me because our School Garden Committee just finished adding school garden resources to the Master Gardener website, a tier 1 activity. Now we have a place to refer those who contact us for help.
Edible Schoolyard New Orleans
Staff from Edible Schoolyard New Orleans gave two excellent short talks. Sasha Solano-McDaniel discussed how a Spanish cooking club enabled language acquisition in the kitchen classroom. Both English language learners and native English speakers benefitted from sharing their cultures and building community. Brian Tome outlined how he created a resilient, undemanding, and educational garden at the Phillis Wheatley Community School. He accomplished this by planting cover crops and perennials and creating a food forest using plants common in the tropics and subtropics such as taro, ginger, turmeric, papaya, and lemongrass.
Food Forests for Schools
My favorite presentation of the conference was “Food Forests for Schools” presented by The Education Fund, a non-profit organization that provides leadership and support for public education in Miami-Dade County, Florida. Food forests are multi-layered food growing systems consisting of trees, bushes, herbs, vines, and ground covers. In Miami-Dade County, 26 of the 51 elementary schools have perennial, edible landscapes that provide food for students to take home and eat in the cafeteria.
Through the Edible Outdoor Eco-Labs to Accelerate Learning program, The Education Fund installs food forests and shows schools how to use them as outdoor classrooms to teach science and nutrition lessons. The main design elements of the food forest are a defined entrance, walking paths, an outdoor classroom, and a compost circle surrounded by banana trees. I would love to see this type of design used in more school gardens in Southern California. Many tropical plants that grow in South Florida can also grow here at lower elevations.
Building a Sustainable School Garden Program
In “Building and Institutionalizing a Sustainable School Program”, Dan Brown, a junior/senior high school teacher in rural Northern California, described how he and his students started with an existing greenhouse to build a garden program that now sells about 2000 pounds of organic produce each year. In 2007, he began applying for grants and used the Ag Mechanics shop to build raised beds, cold frames, shade frames, and high tunnels. Over the years, the garden program has sold many types of plants and produce, saved seeds, and run a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) project.
Green Bronx Machine
Green Bronx Machine started as an after-school, alternative program for high school students and has evolved into an organization that serves more than 50,000 students with an interdisciplinary, project-based curriculum. Green Bronx Machine also supports the Food for Others Garden on a decommissioned city street in the Bronx, a wheelchair-accessible urban farm and culinary training kitchen for special needs students, and an outdoor Learning Garden at Community School 55 among many other projects and partnerships. Truly amazing!
Upland High School Waste Audit Update
As a follow-up to the waste audit, the UUSD Nutrition Services Department is evaluating ways to collect and recycle food waste, increase education on school meal requirements, provide share buckets for unwanted items, switch to bulk condiments and sauces, and make more sustainable purchasing choices. Changes such as these will help UUSD meet the Senate Bill 1383 requirements for organic waste reduction and edible food recovery.
Have you enjoyed reading this blog? Do you have questions or need information on environmental topics? If so, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. I look forward to hearing from you.
Tips for Spring (and Summer) Fruit and Veggie Garden Success!
I begin each spring full of visons of wonderful summer harvests in the veggie garden! It's a wonderful time to dream about what the possibilities are, and they seem endless! There are plants of all types and varieties in the garden centers, seeds of every kind imaginable online and in catalogs, and people like the Master Gardeners are telling you every chance they get that “you can do it, and we are here to help!” ….and we stand by it …..“you CAN do it and we are here to help!!!”
So here are a few tips from our Master Gardeners to you to help you reach you veggie garden dream!! Each tip has a resource linked to it if you want to learn more.
1) Good access to water: Keeping the soil your veggies are growing in evenly moist, like a wrung-out sponge, is key
2) Size matters: It's easy for us all to get carried away with a big veggie garden in the spring when there are plants and seeds for sale everywhere and the weather is not blazing hot! When planning your summer/warm season veggie garden think about caring for it in the summer when it's hot, and try to keep it to a manageable size. This is also especially true this year with the need to save water in our drought. Each year as I learn more, I expand my garden little by little when I feel like I can handle a little more responsibility! Check out our blog post about Ten Tips for the Busy Veggie Gardener to get some more tips on this: https://ucanr.edu/blogs/blogcore/postdetail.cfm?postnum=48940)
3) Mulch for your veggie gardens: Mulch can be used in your veggie garden too! It will keep weeds out, help keep soil moisture in, and also help cool the soil on hot summer days. Check out this blog from the University of Illinois to learn more about the pros and cons of different types of mulches in the veggie garden: https://extension.illinois.edu/blogs/good-growing/2022-01-20-common-mulches-used-vegetable-garden
4) Using compost to build your soil: Compost is a great way to improve your overall soil health, and it can help improve drainage in heavy clay soils and improve water and nutrient retention in sandy soils. Adding some finished compost to your veggie beds or containers is a great way to get soils rich in organic matter, which is so important for good veggie growth. Check out this class we just did online about Composting Basics at Home on our YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FwC4VZgTuUc
5) Pollinators in the garden? Hopefully! Lots of summer fruits and veggies need pollination, and will suffer in size, quality, quantity, and shape if they don't get adequate pollination. Planting flowers and using least toxic methods of pest management will help make your garden fruitful and beautiful. Check out this comprehensive publication on “How to Attract and Maintain Pollinators in Your Garden” to learn more https://anrcatalog.ucanr.edu/pdf/8498.pdf
6) Pests in the Garden: In addition to having pollinators for proper pollination, there are also many insects that act as beneficial predators. To learn more about using integrated pest management (IPM) in your garden to manage pests with least toxic methods check out one of our Master Gardeners favorite sites, the UC IPM page, to find out about the pests bugging your garden: http://ipm.ucanr.edu/PMG/menu.homegarden.html. While you are there check out the section on Natural Enemies in the garden to learn all about beneficial insects: http://ipm.ucanr.edu/natural-enemies/ Want to learn more about how soil is tied to your plants health and is a key part of overall integrated pest management? Check out this blog from last month titled Integrated Pest Management: Building on the Basics: https://ucanr.edu/blogs/blogcore/postdetail.cfm?postnum=51690
7) Should you start your plants from seeds or transplants? It depends! With seeds you can often find more varieties, but they can be harder to start for the busy gardener. Most root veggies do best when started from seeds. Starting with transplants (plants that are already 4 to 6” tall) can give you that instant garden look but can be more expensive. Best of both worlds for non root veggies: start them from seed at home and then transplant them into the garden. Having trouble with your young seedlings dying off? Check this link to learn about “dampening off” and how to manage it http://ipm.ucanr.edu/QT/dampingoffcard.html
8) Seed Saving from your summer garden? Seed saving can be a great adventure and there is so much to learn and explore! Did you know we offer free monthly classes on seed saving online? Check out the recording of our April class on “Seed Saving from your Cool Season Veggie Garden” https://youtu.be/QkdZECMbNDA and check out this short video on seed saving tips (https://youtu.be/I0St3DMm2h0)
9) Fruit Trees: Don't forget about growing fruit trees at home! Fruit trees are a great way to expand your home food forest and there are lots of different types of trees you can grow. They can be grown in big and small yards, and even some will grow in large pots! For more information about growing fruit trees at home check out UC's California Backyard Orchard site at https://homeorchard.ucanr.edu/
10) While you're at it grow some herbs too, they are another great addition to your home veggie garden! Check out our blogs on easy ways to grow herbs at home in this blog https://ucanr.edu/blogs/blogcore/postdetail.cfm?postnum=50170 The University of Illinois Extension also has some great information on growing herbs too! Remember they have a different climate than we do here is So Cal, but there is still lots of great information so check it out at https://web.extension.illinois.edu/herbs/directory.cfm
Lastly…..You can do it….and ….We are here to help! As always, we are here to help by phone or email! Send us an email with any questions you have about your garden, and including pictures of your plant problems or questions can help too. Don't want to email? Give us a call and leave a message and we will get back to you to help with any of your plant related questions! Also check out our free classes online and in person in your neighborhood throughout the county to learn more about a wide variety of gardening related topics! See our website for more information and check out our helpline at: https://mgsb.ucanr.edu/
San Bernardino County Master Garden Helpline:
Phone number: 909-387-2182
For a general overview of veggie gardening check out this publication “Vegetable Garden Basics” https://anrcatalog.ucanr.edu/pdf/8059.pdf