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We’ve had a busy time moving things around and getting things growing.  At FMS we split our time at the school between teaching and ecological garden management with the odd bit of cooking thrown in.

The Seed to Plate program has taken on a life of its own since we started under the wing of the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Program a couple of years back. Over the seasons, we have had a go at various ways of getting the children growing and eating their school-grown produce, but late last year we decided to shake things up a bit and host a 6-12 Lunch, cooked by the children (with help from our wonderful volunteer parents) for the children with an Italian food theme which suited our herb-heavy summer produce perfectly. It was fabulous. So fabulous, that we did it again in Term 1, this time with a Mexican-inspired menu full of FMS-grown corn, beans, eggplants and herbs. A feast for all, and a wonderful time spent with the 6-12 year olds as they gardened, harvested, prepped, cooked, set tables, feasted and cleaned up afterwards together. This linking of the gardens, food production and community enjoyment is what we always dreamed of!

Then, of course, came Covid-19. Things switched quite suddenly from community banquets, and volunteers putting their hands up to help… to lockdown measures and a sudden halt to everything. This year we will not be able to host another harvest lunch thanks to Covid-19 safety measures, but as soon as we get the green light, we will celebrate with an even bigger harvest feast! This time with the whole school, we hope.

In the meantime, we have been laying the groundwork for a more permaculture-based food garden around the grounds, and we humbly ask YOU, our parent community, if you can spare some time during the week to come in and garden with your child’s class. We still need volunteers, and if you have a regular time each week you could come and garden with a small group of 3-5 children, please let us know!  Physical distancing will be required for adults on site and you will need to sign the contact tracing list in Reception but being outside is healthy.

Some of the other achievements this year so far include:

  • Establishment of a Pollination Garden near the 6-12 playground
  • Installation of new raised self-watering “wicking” garden beds outside Christine’s classroom
  • Relocation and replanting of Vegepods as well as adjusting height for our smaller 3-6 year old gardeners

We are glad to see some of our meticulous work is showing results. We use an ecological approach: minimal tillage (no turning over soil to expose more weed seeds and disrupt soil biota), covering soil with appropriate mulches (feeds the healthy organisms in the soil, sequesters carbon, prevents erosion and suppresses weeds), natural slow-release fertilisers (reduces nutrient run-off, feeds soil biota, builds soil and water-holding capacity), minimal chemical intervention (prevents chemical exposure to school users, protects soil biota – you’d be amazed how much pesticides are used in some schools!).

We have really enjoyed having the chickens on campus – they are our weed processors. When they eat so many fresh green weeds, they lay more nutrient-rich eggs. We’re currently re-assessing the chook housing site so we can move the chooks around using movable fencing and “chook tractors” to clear areas of problem weeds in some of the garden beds.

Also, our sincere THANK YOU to all the wonderful parents who have volunteered for mulching bees, cooking and gardening with the children, and the FMS staff for their help and support to get our community growing! A special thank you too, to supporters of our weekly Eco Farms Vegie Box program, a portion of which each week helps to fund our Seed to Plate program at FMS. Thank you!

Feel free to email the school if you are interested in volunteering to help with your child’s class garden. No experience necessary (parents are experts in learning as we go, aren’t we?). All equipment provided, all we need is your time. We’ll answer all of your questions and help you to get started.

Happy growing!

Steve Willis and Anahita Olsen

VEGEPOD DISCOUNT: Our friends at Vegepod are extending our special deal: 10% off all products across their whole online shop. If we buy 10 Vegepods within the community, they will donate one to the school!

Want to learn more about the benefits of the Montessori philosophy? Book a virtual tour and have a chat with our Principal today!

Steve Willis

Author Steve Willis

Steve Willis started Urban GreenSpace in 2010, working with restaurants and kitchens to help them establish self-sustaining herb and vegetable gardens. Since then he has worked with local councils, schools and private residents to help them grow food, community and skills as well as obtain government grants. Steve worked with FMS on implementing the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Program, and continues to grow our amazing school garden with our students, helping to educate them about the seed to plate journey. Steve is a landscape designer, qualified horticulturist and permaculturist with a passion for healthy and nutritious cuisine.

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