The beginning of January in Washington, DC has proven to be a cold one. We have been able to purchase 'grow lights' to plant 600 tomato & pepper seedlings inside. What are we going to do with 600 seedlings?
They are going to become a part of our food distribution at the 8 elementary schools where we operate monthly food Markets. Every month we go into 8 schools and set up a supplemental grocery store full of fresh produce and healthy pantry staples for District residents in need. Now parents and students of DC Public Schools can take home seedlings of peppers and tomatos to grow their own fresh produce.
In addition, we are saving 48 of the seedlings for our own green house. These seedlings will become fresh food for the meals we give to the 250 children our programs daily.
Thank you to all our staff, supporters, and volunteers for making Martha’s Table’s greenhouse a reality! It’s the meeting point between Martha’s Table’s Food and Nutrition Program and the Education Programs as it serves as both a source of production and as a vehicle for education!
The goal is to produce a harvest that can be used to support our prepared food programs. The greenhouse provides access to fresh nutritious foods and improves the quality of life of the children in our programs. It also helps inform individuals about healthy food choices.
The greenhouse curriculum teaches children where fruits and vegetables come from, how they are grown and their health benefits. All children take part in the daily greenhouse responsibilities. Lesson plans and activities were developed for specific age groups. We selected books and supporting material to complement weekly lessons. Children in the daycare and kids programs learn about greenhouse basics and the five senses. Eight to twelve year olds learn about the inner workings of a greenhouse, the different growing mediums, and photosynthesis. In the near future, older students will develop entrepreneurial skills through the production and selling of herbs.
The greenhouse was inaugurated in April 2013; hence our first growing season (Summer 2013) got off to a late start. There are several lessons learned: buying greenhouse variety seeds, developing a planting calendar to track when and how certain plants should be started, thorough monitoring for diseases and pests, consistent and correct watering practices, and heat control during the summer. Moving forward, our gained knowledge will improve yields. For the winter season we will plant tomatoes, leafy greens, broccoli and peppers.
Even in its infant stage, the greenhouse has been a great learning experience for staff, volunteers and children alike. We are excited about what’s to come; as the yields grow so do the possibilities!
The Greenhouse has been a wonderful addition to Martha’s Table. In the next few months, there are two main goals for its evolution. The first is production. We want to focus on growing several types of vegetables and herbs that will be used in our food program to provide healthy and fresh food to those in need. At the moment, we are mainly growing tomatoes and herbs, but we are also experimenting with squash, beans, and melons. We want to maximize space by establishing vertical growing systems.
The second goal is education. The Greenhouse is a great tool for children and teens to be more involved with Martha’s Table’s programs. It will help them learn about plants and the virtue of responsibility through Greenhouse maintenance. We will be developing a curriculum and corresponding activities for our wide range of students. Our younger students will learn about scientific data collection and analysis to complement what they are learning at school. We also want to teach them about the value of nutritious foods and making healthy decisions. We will introduce our older students to entrepreneurial skills such as the production and sale of fresh herbs. These skills will help them with future jobs or careers. Both the younger and older students will participate in daily responsibilities of the greenhouse such as watering or planting. Martha’s Table is really excited to put these plans into action!
Spring is time to celebrate!
Martha’sTable staff and volunteers are happy to announce that our greenhouse has been built! We would like to thank all of our supporters and volunteers who helped us develop this amazing project thus far. Because of you, we have reached our first milestone, which was to build the foundation and basic structure; however,we still have lots of work to do to keep our greenhouse working. In the next week, we will be installing an electrical system so that we can grow fruits and vegetables, even in winter.
What can we expect from our new greenhouse?
Right after the inauguration of our greenhouse, the children in our daycare program started their first project to learn the importance of nature and health by planting tomatoes. Our goal is to teach our children that it is possible to grow our own food, and most important of all, to show them that we can have lots of fun during this amazing process.
Demetri Recachinas, the Assistant Director of the Food and Nutrition Programs, explains,“It’s important to show our children that most of the products we consume everyday come from the fruits and vegetables that were once planted. We have to make this connection to teach them that a tomato can be transformed into ketchup, as an example”.
We will keep you all posted as we start to grow more fruits, vegetables and herbs. We are planning on havingtomatoes, green beans, and possibly even melons very soon. Once things are growing, we will focus on nutrition education, helping our children explore their senses through the greenhouse. They will be able to touch, smell, see,and taste everything we have planted! It is so exciting!
We’re happy to report that our greenhouse project has evolved and is making great progress since we wrote last! Keeping the theme of “going local” we have partnered with Garden Resources of Washington to help us select a pre-fab greenhouse model, and we hope to have our decision finalized in the next few weeks. We have also secured a contractor to lay the foundation of the greenhouse, which will be the first step in the construction process.
After the foundation has been laid and the materials arrive on site, we’ll be working with a group of community volunteers in the spring to assemble the greenhouse in the Martha’s Table playground area – a wonderful addition to our already rich educational programming. Beyond a learning laboratory for our tots, the greenhouse will serve a production purpose to help us provide even more fresh, healthy and local choices through our food program.
Your support makes this important addition to our organization possible and will benefit those we serve for many years to come. Thank you!
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