Students enjoy fruits of labor
By Mike Cook
Las Cruces Bulletin
La Semilla Food Center calls its new partnership with Las Cruces Public Schools and the Gadsden Independent School District the “Edible Education program.”
With cooperation from La Semilla staff and teachers, administrators and staff from the schools, the program is allowing students to enjoy the fruits — and vegetables — of their labor.
La Semilla staff is working helping with school gardens at four LCPS schools — Conlee and Valley View elementaries and Lynn and Sierra middle schools — as well as three schools in GISD, said La Semilla Co-Founder & Farm to School Director Rebecca Wiggins-Reinhard.
Also, the food center is upgrading its website — www.lasemillafoodcenter. org — to make it even more user friendly for school staff.
‘Better than a field trip’
La Semilla, which is based in Anthony, N.M., was founded in 2010 “to build a healthy, self-reliant, fair, and sustainable food system” for the southern New Mexico-El Paso area, according to the website. It is working with local schools to help students learn about the foods they eat and where they come from. It also helps them learn about foods they may not know about or may not have tried before.
La Semilla staff were at Conlee Elementary Saturday morning, Sept. 12 to renovate the school garden that La Semilla helped start four years ago. With lumber from C & D Lumber Co. of Las Cruces, and soil from Sierra Vista Growers in Anthony, about a dozen La Semilla staff, led by Efren Villalobos, garden infrastructure coordinator for the Edible Education program, built six new cedar planting beds, each measuring 10 feet by four feet, and two and one-half to three feet deep. That included arranging the lumber to form the planters, drilling holes and hammering in rebar to hold it in place and filling each planter with soil using wheelbarrows and shovels.
Villalobos will return to Conlee Elementary next week to install an irrigation system, and then the planting will begin. Winter crops to be planted will include squash, pumpkins, kale, turnips and radishes, said Villalobos. The faster- growing vegetables “get the kids excited,” he said, because they watch them sprout over a short period of time. And best of all, Villalobos said, “They get to eat what they grow.”
Conlee Elementary is considered an inner-city school, and many of its students live in apartments or rental houses. So the school garden may be their only opportunity to grow vegetables, fruits and flowers.
“Working with La Semilla has been the highlight for our students and staff,” said Conlee Elementary Principal Janet Candelaria, who helped with the planter construction Sept. 12. “La Semilla partners worked with us as four classes created their own gardens, did the research to determine the garden theme, calculated the cost of the needed items and created presentations. La Semilla partners were instrumental in helping the students create their gardens. One student told us as he was planting his seeds, ‘This is better than a field trip’,” she said.
“The Edible Education program also provided tastings for the students,” Candelaria said. “Students were very excited to be able to actually eat the vegetables from the gardens. Last year, we even had (professional boxing champion) Austin Trout serving the vegetables for our students at one of our lunches. In addition, La Semilla works with us to provide an after school garden club that is a hit with the students. They also provide cooking classes for the students and their parents.
These are highly anticipated events and offer an opportunity for families to cook together and discuss nutrition,” she said.