School garden creates experiences, community

The head of an English elementary school started a garden to teach kids about where their food comes from. But the garden quickly assumed a much larger role.

“Gardening has become a central part of the curriculum,” writes Tim Baker, headteacher at Charlton Manor Primary School in London in a blog titled How a School Garden has Transformed the way we Teach, published by The Guardian. “A recent creative writing task on buried Continue reading

Seed pack instructions offer reminder about faith

It’s National Spinach Day today, at least according to email that we received this morning from the John Scheepers Kitchen Garden Seeds company. And though the day does not have the official status of, let’s say, Memorial Day, or the cultural import of religious holidays, it does offer a small opportunity to reflect on great concerns of the day.

If there’s any rationale behind someone deciding that we should pause a Continue reading

Might be time to grow more food at home

The coronavirus outbreak raises a question that 21st century Americans haven’t thought much about: Can we take well-stocked supermarket shelves for granted? One friend in Cobleskill reported this morning that pickings are slim in his Schoharie County community. Another, Scott Kellogg, the education director of the amazing Radix Ecological Sustainability Center in Albany’s South End, wrote yesterday that it would be “prudent for us to scale up local food production as much as possible,” given great uncertainty of what the months ahead will bring.

We don’t know the extent of stress that current circumstances are putting Continue reading

Subtle moment in garden yields powerful results

The coolest things the Vegetable Project does are probably also the most powerful things it does: We get kids who are convinced they do not like vegetables to give them a try. And we foster a sense of connection between field and table that is foreign to so many kids and adults these days.

So what’s the big deal about these? Students, so many of whom are skittish about trying so many things, food-related or otherwise, tend to say, “Okay,” when we offer. Well, actually, they often first say, “No way am putting Continue reading

Indoor lives creates need for outdoor teaching

Americans are spending sharply less time outdoors than even a decade ago, according to a recent report by an arm of the Outdoor Industry Association. And that should be as big a concern to schools and other civic institutions concerned about healthy development of kids as it is to the businesses catering to people who get themselves outside. Academic research linking exposure to nature with Continue reading

Buy seeds to support the Vegetable Project

Start your own garden this year, maybe in a couple of planters on the front porch, or maybe add a few square feet to that special space – for the beauty you’ll create, for the hope you’ll inspire and for the stewardship of our environment you’ll provide. And please support the Vegetable Project when you do by buying High Mowing Organic Seeds from us from now until Friday, March 20.

Please click here for a printable list of our offering brochure and order form, invite a few friends to take a look with you and push those winter Continue reading

When do we start these seeds anyway (#2)?

We are spending some time with students these days exploring fairly inscrutable language on seed packs discussing when to plant the seeds and whether in containers indoors or in the garden soil. We do this each year partly because the information the exercise reveals useful information. The grower who puts tomato seeds in the soil in April or who sows onion seeds in July will be disappointed.

But we also like that this is a great way to start conversations about biodiversity, the amazing adaptations that evolution makes possible and the Continue reading

When do we start these seeds anyway?

Here’s a quiz. When should we start onion, tomato and carrot seeds? Indoors or directly in the soil? And if indoors, when should we move them outside?

You might want to consult this list of last spring frost dates in Albany and this New York state map of last frost dates.

Winning prize? Bragging rights, if you do not need any more information from us. And note that seed packs typically provide information for figuring this out, that the calculations are not that difficult, but that seed pack instructions are not always worded so clearly.

We often show kids how to figure this out around this time of year. It’s a nice low-key way to open the door to conversations about biodiversity, climate change or particulars about the seasons that we don’t always notice. And if doing before talking helps make these serious subjects feel more meaningful to some students than a classroom lecture might, we will suggest this exercise as a small model of teaching and learning.

–Bill Stoneman

Hands-on learning turns teaching upside down

Teaching is central to the Vegetable Project’s mission – to create hands-on learning opportunities for Albany children, and especially children with great needs, by building gardens, growing plants and harnessing the power of exposure to nature.

To the extent possible, however, we try to approach teaching from a different angle than leading mainstream classroom models. When we speak Continue reading

Love of vegetables not always at first sight

Children fall in love with fruits and vegetables when they have opportunities to grow them, prepare them, and try them again and again, says Curt Ellis, co-founder and chief executive officer of Food Corps in a most wonderful New York Times piece about empowering grade school students to help guide cafeteria menu decision-making in Portland, Ore. “It’s about helping them discover what they love to eat rather than telling them what they should eat.”

We have sought many times to make roughly the same point, but certainly have to give Mr. Ellis kudos for saying it better than we ever have. And thanks so much to our good friend Melissa Bourgeois for bringing the article to our attention.

We know from our experience that kids will try things when they’re with us that they would not otherwise. Time and again, we’ve seen kids beg off, see a friend taking a bite and then say, “Oh, okay, I’ll try it.” And often enough, the next words are, “That was good.”

We’re growing greens indoors, under grow lights right now, with the intention of developing tasting events in the cafeterias where we work. We’ll let you know how we do.

–Bill Stoneman