Thursday, March 23 , 2017, 4:46 am | Fair 51º


Volunteers Toil in the Soil for Garden Project at Olga Reed School

On a sparkling clear early December morning in Los Alamos, a group of volunteers gave up half their weekend to gather on a dirt lot adjacent to the playground at Olga Reed School. Eight hours later, they had created a large and thoughtfully designed garden.

The work wasn’t easy. Hundreds of heavy bags of soil and planting mix, supplied by local nurseries, had to be moved by a parade of wheelbarrows. Mountains of mulch had to be spread over several thousand square feet of rough terrain. Irrigation was installed. Planter boxes were constructed. Scores of vegetables and fruit trees were planted. A wall was painted, mostly by children, earth green below sky blue.

People had fun, made new friends, got sore knees and backs, and dirt under their nails. In the end, they made a beginning. They built an outdoor classroom for the school’s 190 students. They constructed a healthy, pleasant and ultimately edible environment where children will be able to experience a part of nature they might otherwise have ignored — food grows from the ground, it’s not just bought in markets or restaurants.

Principal Joe Dana toiled all day alongside the volunteers.

”We think our new school garden will be an important venue for students learning about agriculture, along with healthy food choices, science, the environment and a whole lot more,” he said. “We also think the school garden will tighten the bond between our school and the Los Alamos community. (I’m) delighted that so many local residents came out to help.”

In Santa Barbara County, the School Gardens program has installed 32 gardens like Olga Reed’s since 2009. For the Los Alamos project, installation coordinator Ramsey Cronk and garden educator manager Jennifer Scarano were responsible for organizing the effort and leading the way. Support from the community was heartfelt, and the donation of materials and supplies from retailers was generous and welcome.

The School Gardens Program is a partnership between Santa Barbara City College’s Center for Sustainability and the Orfalea Foundation. For information or to volunteer, email .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

— Jeffrey Bloom is a Los Alamos resident and volunteer for the Olga Reed School garden project.

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