The Steinocher family helps prepare the garden
Kip Curtis is smiling as he marks garden paths with pieces of discarded cardboard Saturday morning. A few feet away, parents, kids and community volunteers are digging in circles, creating a community garden that, with a little luck, will produce vegetables for the Sanderlin cafeteria.
They’re not there yet, but the project, Edible Peace Patch, is spreading through south St. Petersburg faster than air potatoes. Kip Curtis, an environmental studies assistant professor at Eckerd College, is leading the charge to help teach kids – especially those in economically depressed areas – about proper nutrition and sustainable food.
The garden at Sanderlin is one of five Edible Peace Patch is building in south St. Petersburg. Other gardens include and will include Lakewood, Melrose and Campbell Park elementary schools as well as Gibbs High School. Curtis says they also have plans for an urban garden in the midtown area. Students have a heavy hand in planting, tending and harvesting their gardens. By giving them a stake in the garden, Curtis and others say the students will be more likely to choose vegetables over Happy Meals.
“When they’ve made it, they choose it,” he says. The garden, a series of circles with paths between the rows of vegetables, uses the Hugelkulur gardening method. Students and adults backfilled the dug out soil with rotted wood, shrimp shells, and other biodegradable materials. Over time, the decaying materials create a rich soil that requires no irrigation, according to spokesperson Andy Orrell.
Edible Peace Patch will sell its harvest at the Saturday Morning Market in St. Petersburg and, hopefully, Curtis says, to the school cafeterias. Curtis explains that the Department of Agriculture recently assumed responsibility for school lunches, a big step towards getting local, fresh vegetables from schoolyard gardens into the mouths of the students who grew them.