Sunday, May 29, 2011
Downtown Teaching Farm, Week 1
The Boise High students' first task was to create four 70' mounded rows in what was the compost/waste pile area along the alley. It was amazing to watch this take form before my very eyes! We will do large plantings of vining crops along these mounds as we know that the weeds will be ample and we are hoping to mulch and smother many of the weeds with winter squash, melons, and cucumbers on a yet-to-be built trellis along the alleyway. The most interior bed in this area has been planted with potatoes, and we're going to try some bush beans and snap peas along the two sides of the mounds to help retain the soil and - you guessed it - smother more weeds! These four rows will be watered with t-tape as soon as we can get the irrigations system installed.
On the corner of 12th and Fort we have installed a tomato forest in the serpentine garden. We should be able to get about 80 plants in this area, trellising them onto 8' painted poles to create a vertical tomato patch. (There will be a painting party soon soon soon!) I've been using this method at home for years, and I think it will be an interesting take on this space. We will underplant the tomatoes with companions - with the main purpose there being - you guessed it - smothering weeds! This serpentine garden will be watered once or twice a week by flooding it - once the plants are established. I have to admit - we did not do a good job of keeping track of the varieties of tomatoes planted in here so far - it was raining and taking notes on varieties didn't work out very well. But, we just had to get them in the ground. Most of our starts have been under lights since Febuary and it was now or never for the little guys. I'm hoping that I can go back and do a bunch of retro-labeling once they start to fruit - I have good notes of the varieties that I started, and again I would love the students have the ability to save and sell seeds for tomatoes someday, so we'll experiment with it this season.
I am also seeking a student leader who can be a Water Master. This person would be in charge of making sure that the irrigation plan is being followed and that the water volunteers are showing up. This peson will also work with Mr. Quissell and United Water to further develop the partnership with United Water and make sure we aren't using our donated water too quickly!
At this point I see myself in the role of planting/harvest design and student farmer coordination. I will also be teaching the "Farm Family " series of classes. Erik Quissell has taken the lead as liason between different organizations and the Downtown Teaching Farm. He has been coordinating with the Methodist church, NENA, and United Water so far.
I also realized recently that it would be silly not to try to sell at least a portion of the food to financially support the farm project. We have no intent of trying to operate a farm stand or market booth - most of the food will go to the families of the farmers (student and community volunteers), food banks and church pantries, and to the school cafeteria. But, there will still be plenty we could sell. I had the idea of doing a once a month (perhaps June/July/August/September) "u-pick" farm day where outside people can come wander around with student "farm guide" and harvest what they want, pay a donation of their choice, and the $$ can go to our Boise Schools Foundation account, which is tax-deductable and the can be used by us for continued farm support. These could be seen and promoted almost as "open house" farm parties, where folks can come, harvest what they would like, and contribute what they can. Seems like a great community builder. If anyone else likes that idea - let me know if you'd like to help me plan/promote such a thing. Essentially, we need an "Event Coordinator."
Is it possilbe that all of this has really come together in a week?!