Monday, May 4, 2009

Here's a Concept: School Gardens in the Garden State

By Pat Tanner

Grassroots efforts across the state - often led by volunteer parents - have quietly and effectively been planting school gardens, incorporating gardening into elementary school curricula, and working with cafeterias to bring in fresh ingredients from local farms.

This became abundantly clear a few weeks ago when a network of 30 groups - including chefs, parents, teachers, farmers, foodservice providers, and government and nonprofit agencies - came together for the first statewide Farm to School conference.

Among the speakers were individuals who run successful school gardens in Lawrenceville, Margate, and Princeton. By “successful” I mean they get kids enthused not only about growing fruits, vegetables, herbs, and flowers but also about preparing them and – most important of all – eating them. Happily.

Dorothy Mullen spoke about her work as a founding member of the Princeton School Garden Co-op. She discussed “getting to yes” on establishing gardens in public schools - a Herculean but attainable task that in involves virtually the entire school community. Her group has posted an impressive 50-page how-to guide at

The conference was held at The Lawrenceville School where executive chef Gary Giberson has received national recognition for his efforts in bringing farm-fresh foods into dining halls. Giberson demonstrated the fruits of his labors in dramatic fashion by providing the day’s lunch, many of the ingredients for which were locally sourced. Below is one delicious example.

Gary Giberson, Chef, Lawrenceville School and President, Sustainable Fare LLC.

8 ounces couscous
8 ounces vegetable stock, heated to simmering
1 medium red pepper, seeded and diced small
1 medium tomato, seeded and diced small
1 cup broccoli florets, blanched and chopped finely
1/2 cup red onion, peeled and diced small
Salt & pepper to taste
1/4 cup olive oil
Juice of 1 lemon

Mix the hot vegetable stock with the couscous in a medium saucepan and stir. Let set for 10 minutes. While the couscous is still warm mix together the remaining ingredients and toss. Serve immediately or store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
Serves 4 to 6.

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