Skip to main content

"Magnolia Students Break Ground on a Pizza Garden" -- Tallahassee Democrat, 3/1/2010

Click here for the Story or... most of it is copied below.
By Teresa Youngblood, special to the Democrat, previous Magnolia School Teacher

When his father asked him about his school day, Caleb Mathison, 13, replied, "I feel good. I moved a lot of dirt."

And he and 15 of his classmates have the muddy shoes and dirt-caked fingernails to prove it.

On Friday, the middle-schoolers along with two teachers, two parents, and Nathan Ballentine, "The Man in Overalls" behind local gardening business Tallahassee Food Gardens, transformed a 20- by 15-foot unused yard into 10 individual raised garden beds at the Magnolia School on Tharpe Street.

The school has one of the longest-standing school gardens in the area, first started in 1990. But the current class of middle-school students wanted to break ground on an additional garden to make better use of a sunny space and to have something of their own to contribute.

The teachers were delighted to help, but had their own aspirations for the project.

"Hopefully, we'll grow enough food to eat a meal together on Fridays," said Sharon McQueen, one of the middle-school teachers. "We wanted them to get outdoors, and learn about food, but also, to do something real and hands-on where they were working together, something that builds community."

McQueen asked Ballentine to help create the garden, which the students designed and will maintain themselves. When he arrived at lunch time, he wore his trademark dungarees and brought a truck full of compost. He got right to work, putting tools in students' hands and showing them how to till and weed the soil.

"I want everyone to be able to eat good," said Ballentine, "and that's going to mean an increase in the number of people who grow their own food."

How to grow food is part of the human knowledge base, he said, and that information comes not only from people who consider themselves farmers, but also those who learned how to grow food as children.

"I got started gardening when I was 8, as part of a homeschooling project," said Ballentine. He smiled remembering his early efforts: "I grew nasty lettuce and weird, split carrots that first year."

But from that humble beginning he learned how to grow his own food, a skill he is now committed to sharing with others.

Find the full story by clicking here.

Popular posts from this blog

Why Can I Eat Bread in France, but not the USA?

Updated 10/31/2017 as the National Organic Standards Board meets in Jacksonville, FL. This may well be the most important thing you read this year for your health. (Originally written in 2015 while I was traveling-- and eating bread-- with my wife in France.)

I've got a food riddle for you from Paris, France: Why can I eat bread over here when it makes me sick at home?

I'll share my best guess in a minute, but first, a little personal background.

Since my senior year of high school, I've not been able to eat much bread at all. For five years, I was severely hypoglycemic, and everything I ate had to have more protein than carbohydrates. That meant, in effect, that I spent my years of college beer-less and eating lots of salad with meat on top. I ate tons of vegetables, very little fruit, basically no carbohydrates to speak of, meat, nuts, eggs, and cheese. If I accidentally ate, say, meat loaf that was, unbeknownst to me, made with bread in it, I'd spend the next 2-3 da…

Man in Overalls - It's Like Washing Your Dishes

I often hear folks joke, "Yeah, I had a garden once. I put in all this money & effort, and I only got a handful of tomatoes. Each one of them cost $27!" And they usually end by saying something about not having a green thumb.

I smile and think about a mental model I've been working on: Growing your groceries is like washing your dishes.

While they're raving about how many plants they've killed, I'm thinking, "It's not your thumbs. I bet you don't have a sink. And if you do, are you using decent soap or that garbage from the dollar store? And did you mention you've never washed dishes before in your life? And you're surprised you broke a couple wine glasses with no more experience than a four-year-old?" My eyebrows furrow involuntarily belying my thoughts, "Really? That doesn't seem all that surprising to me." But, of course, not only would saying all that confuse people, it'd kill the moment, so I just smile som…

Man in Overalls - The Valley of Food & Ag Startups: Warren Wilson College

If you're interested in tech, pay attention to Silicon Valley. If you're interested in food and agriculture, Swannnoa Valley, more specifically Warren Wilson College, is the place to keep on your radar.
I'm an alum and proud of it, class of 2008. I studied community organizing, wrote a 140 page thesis about social movements as my capstone.
It's a work college, one of seven in the country. Think universal work-study, so in addition to whatever one's academic track, students are also working in the cafeteria, the library, admissions, as carpenters, lock smiths, lab techs, and-- per the agricultural legacy of Warren Wilson-- as row crop, animal, and vegetable farmers, gardeners, and edible landscapers.  Personally, I worked on the electric crew and then on the landscape crew where I led the edible landscape sub-crew in managing a 1-acre edible (Permaculture) landscape around the "Ecodorm."

Per the "triad" of Warren Wilson's educational system,…