Marnie Bennett at Markham Elementary School –
Knowing where your food comes from is a lesson Marnie felt all kids should learn, and what better way than to start an edible garden! The plan was large and started from the ground up with lots of school staff and community support. More than 40 volunteers—parents, a Boy Scout working toward Eagle status, and a local church– converged on the school courtyard to build and fill 14 raised beds that became the “Markham Real Food Garden.”
Marnie’s goals were to have a garden where kids could get their hands dirty and taste what had grown, whether it was right out of the ground in the garden or prepared and served in the cafeteria. To ensure the kids were invested, she set up a “polling box” in the hall with a bright display that gave them the chance to tell her what they most wanted to grow. With the exception of the second place “mangoes,” the garden grew all of their desired vegetables with corn and carrots being high on the list.
Marnie organized volunteers to take small groups of students out to the garden to plant, tend, and harvest, always incorporating lessons about what was happening throughout the seasons. She also created a Google calendar and had families sign up for a week at a time to water the garden and have first pick of the produce. The fall potato harvest was always a highlight. She said, “You would think the kids were digging for gold as their faces lit up when they found potatoes they had planted the previous spring!”