Local & Sustainable Programming
ETHS Local Garden Program
The ETHS Nutrition Services Department has a growing partnership with The Talking Farm, a non-for-profit organization focused on teaching the community how to grow sustainable food sources, that began in 2009. Talking Farm has been pivotal to the development and maintenance of the high school's local garden program.
We pride ourselves on implementing organic farming practices for two of our garden locations, Edible Acre I and Edible Acre II, and becoming Naturally Grown Certified. Organic farming prohibits the use of any synthetic fertilizers, herbicides, or pesticides. ETHS is also proud to provide essential elements of wildlife habitats, including food, water, cover, and places to raise young. Our Wildlife Habitat Certification has been received through the National Wildlife Federation. Visit the ETHS Gardens web page to learn more about our garden locations.
Preparation & Maintenance
To plan for the growing season, The Talking Farm and ETHS Nutrition Services decide on a specific crop selection. Preferences are based on what cafeterias need and want, as well as summer Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) boxes. In order to get the most out of our garden, season extension is practiced by covering plants or seeds during colder months to increase temperature and prevent early frost. This allows more time for produce to grow and increases the food supply for the year.
Adhering to organic farming practices takes time, effort, and a solid integrated pest management (IPM) system. Together these variables help to minimize possible contaminants and pests as well as improve the growth of plants and produce. Each season cover cropping, crop rotations, mulching, inter-planting, and composting help ensure our needs are met. The IPM system is the first approach before using any organic pesticides. The system starts with a clean site, healthy soil, and proper plant placement. From there, physical barriers such as insect netting are used to prevent insects from eating the produce. Next, larger predatory insects such as beetles may be specifically handpicked, and finally, natural- or plant-based sprays may be used if necessary to target harmful insects. Good cultural practices have resulted in very low levels of pest problems over the years.
The Talking Farm plays a major role in management, planning, and working with students in the Edible Acre (EA). There are many ways students can get involved in the program, starting with attending weekly after-school gardening sessions to learn more about gardening and sustainability practices. We also partner with the ETHS Community Service Club for students who want to fulfill volunteer hours by working in the garden.
Enrolling in the Urban Agriculture course taught at ETHS is another way to get involved that uses the EA as the classroom. Students from the ETHS Transition House also come to the garden throughout the week to learn about gardening, job skills, and a chance to be outside and be physically active.
Through Evanston Mayor’s Summer Youth Employment Program, ETHS students are hired to work in the garden throughout the summer. This is a great opportunity to make some money, have fun being outdoors, and learn the importance of growing local organic food.
What do we do with the harvest?
All harvest from all garden areas is used and consumed in the student and staff cafeterias at ETHS during the regular school year and during summer school. In addition, romaine lettuce from the garden is used to make salads for the City of Evanston Summer Meal Program. Any additional harvest is sold to faculty, staff and school board members during a 10-week CSA program.
Reports and Resources