I grew up in summer gardens, picking beans before it got too hot, discovering a monster-size cucumber that had been missed past its prime, and sort of freaking out when corn-shucking revealed a fat worm.
Although I was a “city girl” in Charlotte, North Carolina, for my parents, a garden was a no-brainer in our suburban backyard. I didn’t exactly love it as a child, in fact, besides the picking part, I pretty much felt neutral about the whole thing. It was a given. And I really believe that it shaped me, helped me respect the seasons, the sustainability, the perfectly ripe tomato picked just hours before that night’s meal.
Yes, yes, that’s nostalgia-filled and on the edge of waxing poetic, but still, real solid building-block stuff, too. Alice Waters, chef extraordinaire, has given that gift to other children, not in their backyards, but in their schoolyards—edible schoolyards.
Started in Berkley, California, the mission of the Edible Schoolyard Project envisions gardens and kitchens as interactive classrooms for all academic subjects, and a free, nutritious, organic lunch for every student. It’s grown to edible schoolyards all over the world, impressive “American” creativity and ingenuity affecting positive change.
Here are three of my favorites Edible Schoolyards in the South. There are plenty of ways to volunteer, and plenty more schoolyards to spotlight in communities throughout the South. You can’t get more “local” than a backyard or a school, and local is where we live:
Mitchell Math and Science Elementary / SC
TLP featured Drew Harrison and The Green Heart Project in 2013’s Philanthropic Foodies, and this downtown campus is where the magic happens.
Edible Schoolyard New Orleans / LA
A program built on the original New Orleans Charter Middle School Garden program, it maintains edible gardens at five FirstLine school sites in New Orleans.
Edible Schoolyard Greensboro / NC
Located at the Greensboro Children’s Museum, this program holds classes for building urban chicken coops, summer camps, and of course, hosts a bounty of field trips.