This is the first in a series of feature articles highlighting various key players addressing food access and food system issues here in Knoxville.
It was a crisp autumn morning at the edible schoolyard as community volunteers plucked pesky weeds from rows of okra. Steam rolled off of the compost pile as they conversed about their love of gardening and all things food. This was the first workday in a week-long series of workdays to celebrate and advocate for healthy, affordable, and sustainable food in Knoxville and Knox County.
Pellissippi State’s Edible Schoolyard at Pond Gap Elementary is a partner for Knoxville’s Food Week because it directly addresses food access issues in the community. A little over one year old, this 6,800 square foot garden provides a learning environment that encourages Pond Gap students to go outdoors and learn about where food comes from. The garden was founded by a Pellissippi State Community College AmeriCorps VISTA, Matt Callo, in 2013 with the help of countless volunteers and dedicated community members.
Today, the edible schoolyard produces a variety of seasonal vegetables without the use of chemicals or pesticides. Some of the crops include tomatoes, okra, corn, lettuce, radishes, onions, and three varieties of trees: cherry, pawpaw, and hazelnut. In the future, the school community hopes to incorporate berry bushes and a pick-your-own strawberry patch.
Pond Gap students work in the garden during recess and can stay after school to participate in Land Scouts, a program where badges can be earned for good stewardship of land and people.
After harvesting produce at recess or as part of the Land Scouts lesson, the crop is sold directly to Pond Gap for use in after school meals and given to parents who participate in the work-share program. For more information on edible schoolyards, Pellissippi State’s Good Food For All initiative, gardens as classrooms, Land Scouts, or community gardens check out the links below!
http://edibleschoolyard.org/: The Edible Schoolyard Project
http://www.lifelab.org/: Life Lab, “a national leader in the garden-based learning movement”
http://urbanlandscouts.com/: Land Scouts
PSCC Good Food For All! Initiative
http://knoxfood.org/download/Community_Garden_Toolkit.pdf: Knoxville-Knox County Community Garden Tool-kit
If you are interested in volunteering or getting involved at the Pond Gap Edible Schoolyard, please contact Elias Attea at email@example.com