Oct 14, 2016

Cultivating Curiosity

Map 1
Map 1

Jovial Concepts has been providing informal garden education in the Edgewater and Lakewood communities for almost three years now as part of the Jovial Gardens program. In that time, we have had all different types of volunteers and partners join us in our efforts to provide wholesome food for those who need it. From hosting missions for out-of-state faith based groups to corporate service days for juggernauts such as Dish Network, we have seen it all. But the groups we always enjoyed the most, were the elementary school children. In a single session of gardening you can change a youth's ideas about how they feel in regards to a certain vegetable, simply by making them feel involved. 

With this in mind, we decided that it would be advantageous to reach out to local schools and inquire about the feasibility of starting an afterschool gardening program. Eagleton Elementary of the West Colfax corridor(a noted food desert) was the most enthusiastic about having our presence. They have a garden on the school grounds that was built ten years ago for use as an educational tool, but due to lack of support had been taken over by the community. Within a few short weeks of talks between ourselves, community members, and school staff, we had managed to develop a schedule for an enrichment program and outline a curriculum to be implemented.

We began our program by inquiring into what the students already knew about their food. The first activity we designed for them was to draw a neighborhood map. Not just any map, but specifically a map of where they get all their food on a day-to-day basis. While these maps were bright, colorful, and beautiful; we could not overlook a harsh reality. Map to map, we saw the same thing. King Soopers, Taco Bell, Denny's, McDonalds, and KFC were on most maps. Yet between two classes of 20 fourth graders there was one map with a garden, and one with a farmers' market. Immediately,we knew we were in the right place. It is imperative that we introduce our youth to the idea of eating fresh produce. Not only will it benefit their health, but as they grow into conscious consumers, it will benefit the health of their communities. 

A few weeks later, we facilitated a lesson on square foot gardening. After we had explained to them the concept of square-foot gardening and how it works, we encouraged them to design their own gardens based off this principle on grids we had provided. With this information in hand, we then went out and compared it to our garden on the school grounds. Specifically, we looked at our patch of carrots. We could see alot of tops, however, as several students noted, there appeared to be too many for how much space we had. Thus, we began thinning them out to allow space for some of the smaller carrots to grow.

While their noting the density of the patch, and suggesting we take some was encouraging, what happened next was truly inspring. These students took complete ownership of their freshly picked carrots. Within minutes, they were all washing off their carrots and rushing to eat them. Even more surprising was that they were provided store-boughts carrots as a snack by the school, and those remained on the table as they munched on their carrots, some still with dirt in the grooves.

The moral of the story here is that you can use gardens to grow food surely. But when you put them on a schools grounds you can help to cultivate not only fruits and vegetables, but also curiosity and a healthy lifestyle.

Map2
Map2
Eagleton Elementary Garden
Eagleton Elementary Garden
Sep 9, 2016

More than a Ton!

 Hello Jovial Garden Supporters,

We haveharvested OVER ONE TON of produce and we're not even pulling out many tomatoe or winter squash yet!! This year is certainly our biggest harvest, ever. Why does it matter? In the words of Lisa Smith (name changed for privacy), it matters a lot. As a Jovial Garden host in Edgewater for over 2 years, Lisa enjoyed having fresh produce at her finger tips and canning or freezing it for the winter. They weren't well off, but they didn't worry about feeding their 16 year old daughter or 13 year old son.

In Feburary, they sold their Edgewater home and moved to New Mexico. The 6 months after they moved brought Lisa to a solid realization, without a program like Jovial Gardens that offered clean, accessible food, her family's health was decling. Her husband who already suffered from immune system issues was the most sensitive to processed foods. With limited transportation, money, and grocery stores, she looked for every possible solution.

In June she reached out to discuss a satelitte Jovial Garden neighborhood in her community in Sante Fe. Her words were this, "My family participated in the Jovial Gardens Edgewater program for two seasons, and we were so happy that we were able to! Now that we are here, we are having a tough time affording the organic produce. I am so inspired by what Jovial Gardens is doing in that area. There is a small plot in the apartment building for a community garden, and other families like ours that would benefit from having affordable organic food. I really appreciate what you did for our family, and we would love to learn more about how we can help out!"

We hope to help Lisa's family build a garden Spring 2016 and have our first out of state gardens!.

Your donations and support are what have allowed us to help families like Lisa's and to continue to expand our services into new areas. We have over 50 gardens and continue to grow each year. Now is the time to reach out and join a Jovial Garden neighborhood or make a donation to help us continue to offer much needed services to Colorado families.

Sept. 21st is a 30% matching day on Global Giving, we ask that everyone renew their support by making a donation AFTER 10am mountain time, but as close to 10am as possible, to ensure your donation is matched. Thank you again for your ongoing support and making stories like Lisa's possible.

Jul 19, 2016

Weeds to Healthy Riches

Building the Garden
Building the Garden

Hi Jovial Garden Supporters,

I'd like to update you about our work at Eagleton Elementary.

There are 441 students at Eagleton Elementary school. These are bright, passionate, smart, and really happy kids that just happen to be growing up in a low income neighborhood and food desert. Their staple meals are sodium and sugar rich cafeteria food and sodium heavy canned meals from the food bank. Many are growing up with a single parent who doesn't have time to cook or perhaps never learned how. Our students often leave home without breakfast and go to bed without a dinner.

Ron and Sarah (2 local community members) wanted better for these students. They wanted to break the statistic that says these students have a 41% higher chance of developing type 2 diabetes in their lifetime due to poor dietary choices. They rallied the support of Jovial Concepts, Feeding Many, the principal, a wonderful team of teachers, and other community member to give the school garden the TLC it needed!

We have been coming out 3 days a week, breaking our backs and sweating to move in the cinderblock for safe and long lasting beds, planting, watering, putting in irrigation, and weeding.

It took us 5 volunteer days to create 10 beautiful small beds, an herb bed, and 2 large melon beds for an outdoor learning lab for students. The cinderblock capstones arrived last week and students have been painting these to bring some extra color and life to their flourishing garden.

Your donations have been used to create sustainability for this garden: long lasting cinderblock beds, irrigation, and master gardener trainings for teachers and community members.

Joival started an after school club that averages 12 kids twice per week and  extended through summer. Teachers got excited and adopted beds for each grade level at the school (PK-5). The Jovial Garden afterschool club adopted the other 3 and the melon beds.

We have already harvested 7 lbs of cabbage and lettuce that has gone home with students. We hope to continue the momentum into the new school year with plans for a garden to cafeteria program and youth run farmer's market. Our harvest this year will include, honey dew melons, corn, green beans, tomatoes, carrots, cabbage, bell peppers, onions, and more.

With summer school ending, we will need extra hands in the garden until mid-august when the kids return. Join us on any Sat. from 9-11a,.

Students Help Clear Paths
Students Help Clear Paths
Planting Tomatoes
Planting Tomatoes
Garden Club Planting
Garden Club Planting
Watering
Watering
Decorating the Capstones
Decorating the Capstones
 
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