We meet Jade and Amy from Allergy Riders and discuss their running of a school garden and teaching kids a bit about the food they eat.
Tell us a bit about your involvement with the school garden?
We are 2 mums with children at the school and have a passion for just getting grubby and teaching what we learn along the way. We are both very passionate about what our school garden has become over the past 2 yrs and the hours that have been voluntarily spent to create it – it has been very much a labour of love. We continue to learn as our interest in permaculture leads our vision and pushes us in the direction of sharing our experiences with others by studying and connecting with like minded people.
We both have young families & being able to do what we love in school hours works really well. Volunteering around 20hrs each a week with time spent being after school drop off and pick up so our job doesn’t get in the way of caring for our families (ok sometimes it does, when we forget to lock the chickens way and one of us has to do a midnight run to the coop before the foxes come)
What motivated you both to start?
We met in garden whilst weeding out a few neglected veggie beds over 2 yrs ago and decided to plant a few peas. Once grown, we gave them to some students walking past and told them to eat them. The response was ‘peas come from the freezer’ they had no idea that peas were grown in the ground and freshly eaten was the best they had ever tasted. From there we decided to plant a few more veggies and it has now grown into a 12 bed vegetable garden complete with organic fruit orchard, 6 chickens & fodder garden, self sown food forests, herb gardens, olive grove, nature play areas, set amongst a native garden surround.
What’s in it for the kids?
The kids love that they can go into their school garden and just relax. It’s a place where they can be quiet and go slow, especially those who are not the sporting type or need some alone time. It’s a place where they can learn and grow with their garden.
A sensory garden was incorporated where the kids can smell, touch & eat plants, collect little bugs to take home, feed to the chickens or re-home into the bug hotel. After a year and half of building the garden we decided to offer our skills to the kids and teach a Gardening Club. Students now enrol in our class & come out once a week from their class and grow their own food, nurture their plants, then cook and eat on the last of term with their produce. All food allergies are catered for and we make sure that every child is involved by adapting or re-creating recipes.
How do you fund this project?
Community sponsorship has been a huge help. There is a lot of emailing and phone calls to get things donated but it does happen. We advertise these companies in our school newsletter and on our website, so mostly people are always willing to help. School parents play a large role in helping keep the garden tidy or building sheds, archways and chicken coops. Our local council was a great help in directing us to available grants and funding. To purchase the little things we sell eggs & produce to the school families to help with the chicken feed. Bonbeach PS holds a Farmers Market monthly, where we sell ‘worm wee’ (liquid by product of the worm farm / compost system) these funds go back into the garden to purchase new tools, wheelbarrows etc..
How can other mums do something similar at their kids school?
Communicate! We are very different people but our ideas are the same and we bounce off each well. You need to have a head chief or 2 in our case, any more and the work will not flow. The best place to start is talking to the principle to find out how much space is available, funding if any & accessing a staff member to help bounce ideas to the entire staff. We found that with the support of the staff, projects are much easier to navigate. Draw a plan of what you have in mind and just go for it! Seek a network of like minded people to help achieve your goals. Be patient as things grow slow and sometimes they die. See everything you do as a learning experience for the next season by keeping a diary. We keep an Instagram account -BPSGREENTHUMBS where we load photos daily. Use social media to connect with like minded people to ask questions or even do a seed swap with another school. Start small, let it grow and your garden will grow. The love & time that goes into it will reward everyone!