Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Moss Haven Groundbreaking Ceremony

Balloons at sunrise during the Groundbreaking Ceremony
Our Groundbreaking Ceremony was over the top! With 420 students, 60 staff members, over 300 people from our school community and at least a dozen media folks, we started off huge!
The media was here in full force to capture the excitement at MHE.

The Moss Haven Farm Committee spent several months planning every last detail down to the hay bale vignettes and reception area hosted by our local realtors Doug and Elizabeth Selzer. The students, who sat on big colorful tarps that our wonderful PTA provided waved bright blue bandanas feverishly in support of all the exciting things that were happening during the ceremony.
Local politicians came out in support

Jerry Allen, our local councilman, came to our celebration and led us in the pledge and a moment of silence. He also spoke in support of our community and our exciting Moss Farm project. 
Tiffany Walker led the excitement
Tiffany Walker, our Lead Farm Committee member shared all of the wonderful plans that are in motion and warmly thanked all who offered support throughout our mission of re-establishing the Moss Haven farm.

Moss Haven Principal Philip Henderson
Mr. Henderson, our principal was cheered on  by the blue bandanas waving in the air and shared how our farm would impact our community and most importantly, our children.
RISD Teacher of the year Ashley Rich. One of MHE's best!
A big surprise to all of us happened when the RISD school board showed up to present our teacher of the year finalist with her award and big check. We were all so proud of Ashley Rich!

The teachers dug in and planted the first plants on our farm.
After the announcements, the fun began. The teachers got to "dig in" to the soil and break ground by planting the first plant in each garden bed. Then throughout the day, American Heart Association and PTA volunteers  helped the kids plant their classroom beds.
The students helped plant their beds.
Themes were picked by each classroom. We planted vegetable soup, pizza, salsa, Texas history, wildflowers, peace love and herbs, ABC, and primary color beds. There are more than plants growing in our garden. There are the minds of children growing and with them, the growth is endless.

We are all very excited!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Bringing Back The Farm

After only 10 short months, our school community sowed its first seeds in 21 raised beds with rich organic soil and sub irrigation watering systems. We are lucky to have been chosen by the American Heart Association to be part of their incredible Teaching Garden program.  They have offered us beds, curriculum, water system development and their time as we begin our farm program at our school. It is a wonderful venture that we are setting off on. We will be teaching so much more than gardening.
21 Teaching beds are on our farm.

An important part of what we will be teaching is the history of our area. Today, we are located in the inner city urban sprawl of Dallas, Texas, but not so long ago, our school was part of a working farm. The 306 acres of land was originally purchased by James M. Houx and his wife Amanda in 1849. Their son, Nicholas was born the first year after they arrived, but Amanda died in childbirth and one year later, James passed away. A local Dallas family adopted young Nicholas and raised him as their own. Later, when Nicholas married, he and his wife came back to live on the homestead. Wiliam Whitesides Sebastian purchased some of the land from the Houx family in 1872. He lived on the land and cultivated cotton and raised Hereford and Holstein cattle. In 1940, the Moss family purchased the land and raised horses and livestock on the property. They also leased out farm plots to families who had moved to Dallas, and still wanted to enjoy the benefits that a garden brought to their family. In the late 1960's, they began to sell off the land to developers who turned the Moss Family Farm into the residential area that it is today. Our school farm is located directly behind the original Moss Family Farmhouse.

A Passion Vine blooming in our "Peace, Love and Herb" bed

Another thing that will benefit our students is the water conservation that we will be teaching. We have purchased a 1,000 gallon water collection tank that will be used to collect water to water our crops on the farm. With the use of water collection and our special sub irrigation system or (SIPS) that water our beds, the kids will learn that water is a limited natural resource and hopefully learn not to leave the water running on full blast at their own homes. Our SIPS only need watered once every 10-14 days (even in Texas). That in itself is very impressive. The beds have a poly liner that does not allow water to wash away. Instead, it stays put for the plants to suck it up during the day and then release it back in the soil at the end of the day releasing nutrients that will again be sucked up the next day. If there is a drought, and the water tank runs dry, we will put out a request to our community to bring a gallon of water to school. With 420 students, that would fill it 1/2 way. It will teach them a bigger sense of community and create a bond to keep our farm up and running. In days past, there wasn't a hose to turn on or sprinklers to use, so this again will be a learning concept in itself.
Hope we can harvest this before the squirrels get to it.

Success and failure are a part of any garden or farming endeavor. There are issues along the way that can make or break a harvest. This project is also 100% organic, so there will be a lot of trial and error as well as tons of luck. The students will keep garden journals and be able to look back and reflect on things that went well, plants that grew out of control and pests and problems that came up along the way.
Teachers can utilize the outdoor chalkboard.

There will be never ending curriculum concepts being soaked up on the farm. The farm will offer countless writing opportunities, math, science, social studies as well as self esteem, team building and conflict resolution. The list goes on and on and our staff continues to amaze me with their creativity as it applies to their garden beds.
Flowers blooming in our colorful tire planters

We all look forward to the opportunities that lie ahead of us and the development of our farm. Check back often to see our progress and "Watch Us Grow as we Bring Back The Farm".