Farm to School Program
ETHS Local Garden Program
ETHS Nutrition services has a had a growing partnership with The Talking Farm since 2009. The Talking Farm is non-for-profit organization focused on teaching the community how to grow sustainable food sources. They have been THE pivotal piece to the development and maintenance of our ever growing and changing local garden program.
Edible Acre I
The Edible Acre, is a 5,000 sq ft garden developed in 2009. The garden is located across the street from the front entrance of the school, on Dodge Ave. During the growing season, April-Nov, our garden supplies anywhere between 2200-3000 pounds of produce! We grow about 30 varieties throughout the course of a year including root crops, greens, herbs, lettuce, tomatoes, and even edible flowers.
The Greenhouse was taken over by the Nutrition Services program in 2014. Since then, we have harvested about 150 pounds of produce annually. During the summer, when the outdoor gardens are active, the Greenhouse grows the seedings for both Edible Acre Gardens and also the Edible Wall.
The ETHS Foundation awarded a grant for Greenhouse renovation that will begin in the Summer 2019. After the expansion, we estimate that our harvest will quadruple!
In 2015, 25 fruit trees were planted near the ETHS football field. There is a combination of asian pear trees and a variety of apple trees. We recently enjoyed our first harvest this past September!
In 2017, ETHS added a hydroponic grow wall to North Cafeteria. Items such as swiss chard and kale were harvested, for a total of 50 pounds. We hope to add 3 more of these to the same wall, to create the visual appearance that the entire wall is one large garden!
Edible Acre II
During the Summer of 2019, ETHS began the process of adding 14 raised beds creating an additional 900 sq ft of growing space! This garden is located on Church street, right near the ETHS football field. This area will supply all of the romaine for every student salad until November!
In the Fall of 2019, 4 tower gardens were added to our local program. We will begin incorporating our harvest into the program this fall. These towers will focus on herbs, with focus on basil so we can create our students favorite pesto sauce!
The Edible Acre I and II are especially unique because we use organic farming practices. Organic farming prohibits the use of any synthetic fertilizers, herbicides, or pesticides. At the EA we keep ourselves accountable of these practices by becoming Naturally Grown Certified. We are also proud to provide essential elements of a wildlife habitat including food, water, cover, and places to raise young. We have secured our Wildlife Habitat Certification through the National Wildlife Federation!
Preparation & Maintenance
To plan for the growing season, The Talking Farm and ETHS Nutrition Services decide on
specific crop selection. Preferences are based on cafeteria needs/wants and summer Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) boxes. In order to get the most out of our garden, we practice season extension by covering plants or seeds during colder months to increase temperature and prevent early frost. This allows more time for our produce to grow and increases our food supply for the year.
Adhering to organic farming practices takes time, effort, and a solid integrated pest management system (IPM). Together these variables help to minimize possible contaminants and pests as well as improve the growth of our plants and produce. Each season we undergo cover cropping, crop rotations, mulching, inter-planting, and composting to ensure our needs are met. Our IPM system is our first approach before using any organic pesticides. Our system starts with a clean site, healthy soil, and proper plant placement. From there, we use physical barriers such as insect netting to prevent insects from eating the produce. Next, we may specifically hand pick larger predatory insects such as beetles and if all else fails we use natural/plant based sprays to target harmful insects. That said, we are happy to convey that due to our good cultural practices we have had 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 wanting to fulfill community service hours by working in the garden.
Enrolling in the Horticultural Science 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 physically active.
We are involved with the Evanston Mayor’s Summer Youth Employment Program. We hire ETHS students 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 during the regular school year and during summer school. In addition, romaine 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.