"We could not maintain this garden without the help of Clark students", organizer Bobbi Bellomy said at the conclusion of a two hour work party at Hazel Dell Elementary School. In mid-March, Clark College students helped clean up the school garden as part of their food and health class. They prepared beds for spring planting by adding compost and lime to the soil, installing irrigation systems, and laying down tarps for protection. These 30 students accomplished 60 hours of work in just one afternoon! This event was a perfect example of how Hazel Dell Elementary has been able to maintain such a large and successful garden for over 14 years: the key has been community involvement.
Barbara Nordstrom and Bobbi Bellomy are the Master Gardeners who manage the garden. They have been friends since 2005 and both previously worked at Hazel Dell Elementary. The garden started as a collaborative effort between school staff, the Foundation for Vancouver Public Schools, Clark County, and the WSU Extension program. It is currently maintained by the Master Gardeners and a team of outside volunteers called the "growing team", with help from the students and staff at Hazel Dell and other local schools.
The garden grows an impressive variety of food! There are peas, tomatoes, zucchini, cucumbers, potatoes, squash, beets, onions, and greens like lettuce, kale, and char. They even have blueberries and kiwi, which are favorites for obvious reasons. During harvest time, students are able to take home fresh produce to their families every week. The remaining food is donated to the Boys & Girls Club or to the Food Bank. Hazel Dell students also benefit from hands on education in the garden and associated lessons taught by the Master Gardeners.
Barbara and Bobbi gave one piece of advice for other schools interested in having a garden: "start, but start small". This sounded a little funny coming from the two women as they stood in front of the Hazel Dell garden, which spans 40 x 100 feet, with over 30 raised beds and a green house. But at one point, this garden was just an idea.
Go here for more resources on school gardens.