Wednesday, March 25, 2009

can you dig it?


when i was a kid, you could sign up for summer school and take special "extras" like art that were not offered during the regular school year with much consistency. summer school was at a different elementary school and it had two things my school lacked, much to my fourth grade chagrin: mr. brancato and the garden.

mr. tony brancato was the principal of dunlap.  he radiated enthusiam. every morning as he walked down the hallways, he would say hello to all of us. mr. brancato planted a vegetable garden at dunlap in the spring with the help of parents, and by the time summer school rolled around, it was amazing. i'd never really seen vegetables growing, and certainly not in the middle of an elementary school. mr. brancato put the garden in the middle of a corridor that sat between two long hallways flanked by classroom doors and windows.  you couldn't even yell or run in the hallways, and here was mr. brancato, creating a tiny eden in the middle of a bureaucracy. planted it. just turned. it. out.

it's not like i was really into gardening-- most of us were pretty much just focused on coloring, painting, smurfs, and candy-- but i did intuit something special about mr. brancato. he took the time to make something on campus; he liked us and he liked the school, and he clearly loved the garden...and that just felt good. that was my first romance with gardens, 25 years ago. fast forward to the present, and i am still just totally fascinated by gardens, and the people who make gardens.

even though mr. brancato did something pretty unorthadox at the time, it was a fantastic idea. folks like alice waters and her edible schoolyard project make a connection between growing food for growing people! gardens on campus, healthy organic high quality produce in the cafeterias...it makes me want to skip!

because really? shouldn't we be feeding our kids the very best? i once heard that the free/reduced fee breakfast and lunch programs used in schools were instituted during world war ii in part because the military started to note that many men coming through the draft were malnourished (the depression). the government decided that the proper nourishment of youngsters was a matter of national security. i think our current government needs to revisit this idea. pronto. the current childhood obesity epidemic is a different kind of malnourishment.

check out farm to school.

1 comment:

  1. love it! mr. brancato sounds like a gem, dana, and i admire your enthusiasm for gardening and safe, healthy, yummy food.

    it seems like we´re on the same wavelength, sister. i´m thinking of WWOOF-ing it in northern ontario for a couple of weeks when i get home. just to get my hands dirty, feel out the organic growing process, etc. if i weren´t about to start a phd, i´d probably wwoof my way through canada, the states and central and south america (it´d be a great way to experience costa rica, panama, colombia, and all the other countries i missed on this trip). but seriously, i´ve also been dreaming a lot (and talking about) this vegan co-op i want to start; if it keeps looping through my brain, i may just have to drop academia and dedicate myself to healthy food (and healthy, cooperative work) full-time. right now, though, i´m dedicated to growing herbs and wwoofing short-term.

    speaking of food justice, have you picked up bryant terry´s vegan soul kitchen? it just dropped, i can´t wait to taste it!

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