By Marsha Sandman | CNA Media Team
Walking through the Faubion K-8 School playground at 2930 N.E. Dekum St., a covered asphalt area is scattered with a riot of colorful flowers and the words “Plants Rule.”
On this winter day the flowers are drawn in chalk. But soon planting should start in the Faubion garden, which has 20 raised beds.
This is evidence that Betsy Lattig, known as “The Garden Lady” at Faubion is having a positive impact on the students. Betsy comes from Growing Gardens, a local nonprofit organization with garden programs in 10 schools throughout Portland.
The organization’s website sums it up, “Youth Grow provides hands-on education in school gardens to help all children feel accepted and empowered to make healthy choices, become stewards of the environment, share their culture and increase community resiliency.”
The program integrates science, biology, sociology, healthy eating, cooking and other core subjects with outdoor education. As a year-round educator, Betsy starts the gardening journey with classroom visits.
She facilitates intercultural and inter-generational community building through events and workshops, and in the garden as students plant and nurture their crops.
Students often eat straight from the garden, and families are invited to harvest during the summer.
“I can’t tell you how excited I am to deliver hands-on garden lessons in the Faubion community,” Betsy said. “I’ll be taking students outside during the school day, as well as during a Schools Uniting Neighborhoods programming, to delve into garden education.
“We’ll be growing food, eating fruits and veggies, doing creative projects, and growing a program based on the needs and visions of the Faubion community.”
Volunteers are a vital part of Growing Gardens, because they also mentor and donate plant starts to in-need Faubion families for three years to grow home gardens and develop healthy eating habits.
In addition, the harvested produce is donated to the school cafeteria, school-based food pantries and families.
The students also attend cooking classes, taste test their own recipes, and the more popular recipes are shared with other Portland school lunchrooms.
Growing Gardens is funded by donations, grants and fundraising dinners hosted by local chefs. During the first two weeks of April, Faubion plans to host a plant sale.
Orders are taken in the school office and at CharityAuction.bid/FaubionPlantSale. Plant delivery is scheduled May 8, just in time for Mother’s Day.
Growing a garden not only cultivates plants. It also grows self-esteem, healthy bodies, and environmental awareness, according to Betsy. So she advises getting your hands dirty.
After living east, south, north and west, Marsha Sandman is home at last. And she wants to hear your story. Contact her at MarshaJSandman@ gmail.com.