by Maya Salsedo
As we have returned to the school campuses in Oakland the Planting Justice Educators have been busy making new connections and nurturing our existing partnerships. We are so happy to work again with Ms. Arabia at Fremont High where our 3.5 year old garden has really matured. We are still reaping heaps of apples from our trees and pounds of tomatoes. While time has really aided in the development of our slower growing perennials like rhubarb and echinacea, naturally overtime our soil has been depleted and eroded. So before getting our winter crops in at Fremont High and McClymonds we added a soil and compost mixture to our raised beds which had lost 6-12" of soil over the years.
At Fremont High we are working on a dynamic new partnership with our 10th grade english class and another guest presenter and partner Beto Bracho who helped us back when we did our Courtland Creek restoration project. Planting Justice Educators Maya and Julio made kale smoothies at the Fremont High back to school night where we gave out 40 smoothies and $50 worth of produce straight from the garden. A highlight from the Open House was when we were in the garden with a small family that really appreciated learning about which plants we had. This family was speaking english, spanish and mam an indigenous Mayan language spoken in Mexico and Guatemala where our students family is from. Our work at Fremont High around food access feels especially relevant this school year as the administration has agreed to take on the education of more unacompanied minors than ever before.The 'crisis at our borders' feels like a misnomer when this 'crisis' of poverty and policy is alive and well here in Alameda County.
At McClymonds we are excited to work with the digital design class to get a website going for our school garden, our McClymonds program is also shifting from an after school class to an after school internship. We also look forward to painting a mural for our Mac garden which Community Rejuvination Project will help to make happen.
At Oakland Technical High School we are partnering with four periods of Environmental Science students who blew us away this past week with their knowledge of natural systems. These students were armed with all the tools needed to design a sustainable school from grey water systems to elliptical powered mobile solar panels...we can't wait to see what they come up with in future classes. Each month we will return to the Environmental Science classroom to build on environmental science concepts with a food justice focus.
At Keller Plaza apartment complex we continue to have weekly garden based workshops with residents who are four years old and elders. Educational Director Haleh and participants at Keller recently made delicious fried green tomatoes, a great way to use those last green tomatoes that aren't likely to ripen before the end of the season. Tylen our longtime Keller Plaza garden guy has been tending our giant bean trellises which have the most beautiful scarlet runners, we are feeling the bounty at Keller.
We have expanded our classes at Santa Rita Jail this fall which is great for us as we continue to make connections with people for our reentry green jobs who may have barriers to employment. We are now teaching in both women's and men's chemical dependency classes as well as employability courses. At Santa Rita our Education Team has partnered with our Transform Your Yard team and our Case Worker Debra Mendoza from Pathways to Resilience to show up in full force at the job fair for incarcerated people at Santa Rita Jail. Our Holistic Wellness workshop offering seems to really hit home with folks at Santa Rita in that it promotes balance and self care which are the foundations for a successful life.
We will also be returning to the Juvenile Redemption Garden late fall or early winter to plant some fruit trees in the second phase of the garden install there. When we went back to the garden for the first time after our build we were taken aback by the abundance. Read about our latest trip to juvenile in this blog by educator Maya.
Last and certainly not least we continue to go to San Quentin State Prison in partnership with the Insight Garden Program. Last time we were in we harvested serious squash, tomatoes and then applied and then after looked at inspiring photos from the great climate march. We reflected on how people that are incarcerated at San Quentin and in our IGP class participate in this movement from the inside of the prison walls.