The Verde Valley School Farm and Orchard (Photo courtesy Richard Sidy)
Recently I visited the garden at Verde Valley School, and was walking through it with a young man who is very concerned about the environment and the risks to our climate and planet. He asked if it would be better if people just left Nature alone since it had survived for so many years on its own.
I understand that he views the precarious state of our planet as a result of human activity. We have taken so much that we can’t put back, which has created monumental pollution. Toxic substances are largely the by-products of our way of life, poisoning air, soil, and water, putting life at risk.
The reality is that humans are part of Nature. By not realizing this fact, we have been using it without restraint and without the awareness that our health and destiny are tied to its well-being. However, humans can contribute to its health and restoration. We need to start giving more and taking less. Is that even possible?
The garden at Verde Valley School is a beautiful example of how we could possibly giveback, enhance, and restore nature. When a teacher invited me to tour the site back in 2013, it was an unused piece of land next to the road. It was natural, just a field of wild grasses and arid-land vegetation, untouched by human hands. Her vision was to make a large school garden that would teach students about environment, sustainability, and supply food to the cafeteria.
Today, that garden is a productive farm, an oasis of fruits, vegetables, wild flowers, natural vegetation, trees, vines – plants and trees in a wildly managed eco-system. Human activity has produced regenerative and fertile land that supports insect, soil, animal, and human life. Beyond that, it is planting carbon from the air into the soil reducing climate change. It is also a key component for school waste reduction, sustainability, and educational goals. It shows how humans can contribute to biodiversity, a healthy environment, and community. Learn more: Facebook.com/VerdeValleySchoolFarm
Similarly, only two years ago, Heather Herman, then president of the Sedona Village Rotary Club, shared her vision for a community garden on the abandoned baseball diamond at Big Park School. When we met there, it was a hard-packed dustbowl with a neglected mono-crop of grass infested with weeds. There was a thriving colony of fire ants that had taken over the pitcher’s mound.
Now, that site is a thriving community garden with diverse vegetables, and flowers. It became environmentally and socially productive. It attracts pollinators, people, and partnerships, demonstrating how neglected land can be restored for the benefit of all living things. They are providing fresh produce for themselves, and for food insecure members of our community. Learn more: SedonaVillageRotary.org/page/community-garden
As Gardens for Humanity gears up for the new school year, we plan to energize learning gardens throughout the Verde Valley. Gardening helps restore and connect us to Nature and to each other. For children it awakens their role and ability to nurture life. This can produce a more optimistic view for the future. In our garden, art, and environmental education programs, children have time to develop and use their senses, minds, and skills in a way that helps them understand their partnership with the natural world. To find out more visit GardensForHumanity.org/intro-schoolgardens
Richard Sidy is president of Gardens for Humanity, a founding member of the Sustainability Alliance and a member of the Verde Valley Food Policy Council. To reach him, email [email protected]
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