School Garden: Harvest Time

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August 17, 2017
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October 18, 2017
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School Garden: Harvest Time

"Outside of the government, no one has ever helped our school, before SosteNica came along," observed Salía, one of San Antonio's main teachers. "Your support has fallen, as if from the sky, like a long awaited rain after a difficult drought." Every day, Salía rides her bike over dirt roads, 15 kilometers to and from school.

There is something thrilling, especially for youngsters, about harvesting vegetables from plants you have raised. As you can see from the photos, 2017 continues to be very bountiful for our Nicaraguan students. And as they harvest their crops, we witness the yield, not only in terms of bio-mass, but more importantly in terms of Nicaragua's future farmers. Elementary school students (and their teachers) learn, through this exercise, the benefits of producing one's own healthy diet. Teachers at Betania, Silvio Mayorga, La Chilama and Valle de Jesus elementary schools, so taken by the mystery of their bounty, have begun tracking their specific fruit and vegetable crops, inventorying how many plants students have planted, and how much produce students harvest each day.

Rather than grow an excessive number of different crops, SosteNica's School Garden team has concentrated on only eight crops: corn, green pepper, cucumber, tomato, squash, canteloupe, string bean, taro root

For most of thes crops, it takes anywhere from 55 to 100 days of constant attention -- weeding, watering, shielding from disturbance -- to get a single fruit or vegetable. At Valle de Jesus school, our students have finally begun harvesting, with 41 ears of corn and more than 100 string beans recorded in their spread sheet. The students of Betania have hauled in an impressive 40 cucumbers and 20 juicy big tomatoes, with many more still on the vine. The 8 taro plants at La Chilama won't have roots big enough to harvest for another six months, and only then if students water them constantly. Taro root is very thirsty and requires 200 days to develop. Silvio Mayorga won the prize for "pipian" -- a special Nicaraguan squash, similar in taste to our yellow squash. They have harvested 16 so far.

While the school year is entering its final months (Nicaraguan school year ends in early December), the gardens have just reached their point of peak production. Students gather up the "fruits" of their labors, eating for lunch the proof of their success. No need for report cards in this outdoor class room. The garden gives every student delicious and nutritious "feed back"! In the words of Profe Luisa from Betania Elementary: "The Ministry of Education provides us with a staple of rice, beans and cereal grains. But now, the students are adding greens to their daily menu. The big goal now for our students is to have a better pump for irrigation. The old one is very stiff and difficult to operate for young children."

La Chilama Elementary, even worse off than Betania, began 2017 believing that they would have to drop out of the school garden program because their hand dug well had dried up in 2016, leaving no water for the students, much less for the crops. But our "Johnny on the Spot" delegation from Talmadge Hill Community Church dug into their pockets during their visit in April, donating funds sufficient to redig the well and install a brand new pump. Moving from scarcity to abundance, Betania has already harvested 106 individual items from their rennovated garden.

In addition to the productive skills associated with horticulture, our students are also learning nutrition, thanks to a creative collaboration with a young Peace Corps volunteer working in the area. At the same time Rocio, our graphic designer has stepped up to teach drawing, painting and color theory, which she brings to the important topic of recycling. Students gather plastic bottles, paint them in primary colors, and bind them together to make recycling bins for their community.