Sage is Growing Organically

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Veggies sprout at the new organic garden at Sage Hill School.

Several Sage Hill students are trying to make lunchtime a little more green.

Throughout the 2010-2011 academic year seven Sage Hill School students have been digging, cultivating and tending to an on-campus organic garden. The students, all juniors and seniors, started the project as their service learning assignment.

The Sage students partnered with Savannah’s Organic Ranch to design and build the school’s first ever on-campus organic garden.

The group’s goal was to create a self-sustaining garden that will provide organic vegetables that may be used for student meals on campus. It will also be used as an educational center to teach younger kids about organic food and a healthy lifestyle.

“My work with Savannah’s Organic Ranch is not just a ‘project,’ but something much more momentous: a student-led effort to confront a pressing social issue,” said Sage Hill junior and project volunteer Spenser Apramian.

The group of students working on the organic garden service learning project consist of Apremian, Katie Rosoff, Jack Heffron, Matt Dollett-Hemphill, Eric Fish, Eli Kaufman, Jace Swindon.

School officials are not sure exactly where or how the garden will be utilized.

Students decorate for the opening of the garden at Sage Hill School.

It’s undetermined whether the vegetables grown in the garden will go to the Sage Hill School’s kitchen, their partner schools’ kitchens, or possibly an organization like Second Harvest Food Bank of Orange County in the Kids Café program, said Sage Hill’s Director of Community Life and Public Purpose, Jason Gregory

Until the garden has created some produce and they know it’s output, they aren’t sure how much they will able to donate, he added.

“We want to make the greatest impact,” he said. “All of those options are on the table.”

A dedication was held Saturday at the school to celebrate the garden and all the work the students, volunteers and helpers from Savannah’s Organic Ranch (SOR) did to make it possible. The Sage Hill garden is the ranch’s eight working garden in Orange County.

A.G. Kawamura, former California State Secretary of Agriculture, and Azmin Ghahreman, local chef and owner of Sapphire Laguna and Sapphire Pantry in Laguna Beach and proponent of healthy eating for children, both attended the dedication ceremony.

The dedication was a part of Sage’s EcoFair, a festival to promote healthy living and the green lifestyle. Vendors set up shop in Wilkins Town Square on campus and offered organic food, products and information.

“That dedication sort of jumped started a symbiotic relationship not just between Sage Hill and Savannah’s Organic Garden, but the community at large as well,” Gregory said.

The school is planning on bringing in local schoolchildren  and teaching them about organic farming and sustainability, he said, and hopefully they will bring it into their own lives.

The garden was created by more than 100 volunteers over three concurrent weekends in April.

The garden will be maintained entirely by Sage Hill students throughout the year, and plants and herbs harvested from the garden will be used in meals in the school’s on-campus café.

Sage students will also assist in implementing a curriculum to teach elementary school kids throughout Orange County the value of organic foods and empower them to make healthy food choices.

Kids from local elementary schools will also attend classes in the garden about the life-long benefits of organic food and healthy eating.

The garden mimics Sage Hill’s 9th and 10th grade service learning projects, where the Sage students teach elementary school kids. It’s an important learning tool to teach and mentor others, Gregory said.

“We see our greatest successes when our kids are teaching others,” Gregory said. “This (project) creates an opportunity to do that.”

The Sage students are learning about organic farming, gardening, healthy living and sustainability, Gregory said, and then and then imparting that knowledge on the younger generation of students.

“It’s a dynamic relationship that allows both parties to win,” he added.

The students can learn while doing and many really identify with that format of teaching, he said.

“There’s no question that organic gardening is a hot commodity right now in education,” Gregory said.

Gregory said the school is hoping to make those connections with the kids through the garden.

Savannah’s Organic Ranch is a non-profit organization that promotes healthy lifestyles by educating children about organic gardening.

The ranch was created in memory of Savannah Sachen, an 8-year-old girl who died of cancer in May 2007. Sachen wanted to be an organic farmer and her parents promised her before she died that they would start the ranch.

“We aim to spread the seeds of a healthier future by involving children in the organic process, from planting to harvesting, and then creating and enjoying healthy meals, and by doing so, empowering them to make choices that will better all,” according to the ranch’s mission statement.

Savannah’s ranch mission statement is right in line with what the Sage students aim to do with their garden.

The Sage Hill student farmers hope that the younger kids will take away a lot more than just fresh veggies.

“The intimate hands-on relationship the children will get to have with the mini-ranch, such as being able to pull fresh carrots from the ground,” Apramian said. “We hope will resonate with them in a way that will impact their nutritional choices later in life.”


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