The Edible Schoolyard is a one-acre organic garden and kitchen classroom adjacent to the Martin Luther King, Jr. Middle School, a public school in Berkeley, California. The garden is a place for students to get hands-on experience in growing and cooking their own food, and firsthand knowledge of where food comes from. The garden has become an inspiration to teachers, students, and parents around the world, and I got to take a tour of it in May.
Now, Berkeley is already quite a green, leafy city, but the garden is something to behold. There is a wall of flowering bushes leading to a sculpted metal archway that guides visitors into the space.
Once inside, there is an enchanted-looking gazebo where participants can sit in a circle.
Further into the garden, there is a toolshed with wooden signs for each plant, along with gardening gloves, boots, rakes, shovels, and the like, each labeled with a colored piece of tape that tells kids exactly where they should be stored when they’re done being used. A small pond is paradise for the family of ducks that lives at the garden, and there is a hen house for happy chickens who feed on the delicious compost that comes from the kitchen area.
There is an indoor kitchen that holds plenty of the cookbooks, seasonings, and tools that I have in my kitchen at home. In addition, there is even a stone pizza oven, and an outdoor cooking area stocked with safe, kid-friendly kitchen tools for creating an easy and delicious meal. Now, what kid wouldn’t get excited about creating a garden-fresh pizza, served piping hot from an outdoor oven?
The Edible Schoolyard is a place where kids garden, cook, and learn everything related to growing food. It was begun by chef and sustainable food visionary Alice Waters, who started the now legendary Chez Panisse restaurant in Berkeley in 1971. As the story goes, Waters was challenged to help bring fresh, organic food to the urban school kids just minutes away from her upscale, world-renowned restaurant, and she took the challenge.
On my tour there were lots of teachers from around the state who wanted to bring a similar program to their own schools. There were also middle school students who were really excited about getting their own school gardens going. Once a year, there is a weeklong program held here to train teachers from around the world to set up edible gardens at their schools. It’s not necessarily an easy endeavor.
The garden in Berkeley is 17 years old, and every year a team of volunteers, board members, and employees helps to work out the kinks. But the payoff is well worth it, as the kids who have access to a garden are able to learn about healthy eating, the environment, science, history, geography, and many different aspects of science.
If you want to join one of the monthly visits to the garden, or participate in the yearly Edible Schoolyard Academy, check out the Edible Schoolyard Project for complete information.