Digging In: Meet Lexington’s Compton Mentor
by Miranda Hileman
I’m Miranda Hileman, 2009 Compton Mentor Fellow, and have just arrived in
Lexington. I am ready to get my hands dirty and grow some food!
Since graduating from Berea College in May with a degree in Sustainable Agriculture, I have been fortunate enough to work in partnership with Jim Embry, founder and
director of Sustainable Communities Network. For the next year, I will be working with Jim and others to create and sustain community and school gardens all over the city. I chose Jim as my mentor for this fellowship because of his passion for creating a sustainable community and because he focuses on food production and consumption. We share the conviction to educate people about the sources of their food and share the joy of growing and eating our own food.
My fellowship proposal entitled, “Grow Lexington! Nurturing Young Minds on Common Ground for a Greener Tomorrow,” focuses on providing food security for low income residents of Lexington. I hope to provide a hand in enhancing the existing community gardens, and supporting the development of school gardens and educational programs in and around the city. I believe that food security is a basic human right. I want all people to have access to affordable, fresh food and to be able to take part in food production.
Improving the local food system of a community is one way to increase the resilience of the city to some of the environmental and economic pressures headed our way.
Through working in the schools with teachers, I hope that we can reach the children of Lexington, teach them about the importance of good food grown in a local economy and ultimately educate students to allow them to make just, sustainable choices in their lives and their communities.
Gardening with Class … join the Movement.
Spring garden season arrived in Lexington as usual this year, but some new ideas about where to till up the Earth and sow seed accompanied this re-birth. Some of us thought ‘What better place to plant than a schoolyard?”
Gardens are a great way to teach more than just science. History, language arts, responsibility, economics, poetry, math, teamwork, languages, world culture and art can be taught in a garden and integrated into the standard curriculum
A school garden is a place that harbors creativity and brings it to life.
School gardens teach children learn where food comes from. Research show that children will taste and eat food that they grow and will develop better nutritional eating habits.
So school gardens like the one at the White House begun by Michelle Obama are a no-brainer for Kentucky besieged with obesity and many health problems related to food consumption. California usually in the forefront of progressive legislation passed a state law several years ago requiring every school to have a garden that is integrated into the entire curriculum.
Our children in Kentucky deserve no less. This spring we collaborated with the Kentucky Green and Healthy Schools Initiative, the UK Tracy Farmer Center for the Environment and the Kentucky School Garden Network to offer workshops that educate and inspire the movement to develop gardens in every school in Kentucky. Word went out around the state about workshops being held In Lexington on April 18 and June 12 and nearly 200 teachers, parents, volunteers and community members registered to attend these two workshops.
We did not anticipate the tremendous interest coming from every corner of our state. Folks came from the west- ,Paducah and Bowling Green area; from the north — Erlanger and Covington area; from the east and south — Hazard and Corbin area; from the central-Berea, Lexington and Frankfort area and Louisville.
“Gardening with Class — Creating and Sustaining your School Garden”, designed by Jim Embry of Sustainable Communities Network was an exciting and
inspiring experience for all.
He served as the workshop speaker/facilitator and organized a thoughtful and enriching presentation, about how we can nurture the young minds that we teach about our sacred connection to the Earth.
One highlight was watching a short video of 15-year-old Sam Levin’s presentation at Terra Madre 2008 in Torino, Italy about his school garden in Massachusetts.(Sam will be in Louisville this November speaking at the Local Farms
Healthy Foods Conference).
The workshop included a tour of the Arboretum led by Roberta Burns. At the June 12 workshop, Josh Radner, a teacher at Yates Elementary School in Lexington, spoke about his use of a garden in his work at Yates and the Day
Treatment Center. Jim has been working throughout Lexington for several years now to help create community and school gardens and knew it was important to give school teachers resources to support their efforts. The California School Garden Manual was given to each participant and served as the primary resource material for the workshops. Fifteen schools that participated in the workshops received a School Garden Startup Kit valued at $400 and included such things as a garden cart, tools, books, plant, seeds and soil to jump start their school garden efforts. Each participating school also received a copy of The Edible School Yard by Alice Waters for their libraries. ■
Join the newly formed Bluegrass School and Community Garden Network and the Kentucky School Garden Network! Info www.sustainlex.org or 859.312.7024.
There will be a reception, July 23, 2009 from 4pm to 6pm at 112 N. Upper St. to welcome Miranda to Lexington. Food and drinks inthe KCCJ/CKCPJ office building, 112 North Upper Street; afterwards, Thursday Night Live at Cheapside Park for great music and community spirit.