Planting for the Future
By Judy Baehr
Discovery Days at the Farm
Today in the U.S. and elsewhere, schools have edible gardens where kids learn to plant, tend and harvest food. But here in Mexico, kids are rarely that lucky, even in rural areas.
That’s why ACÁ has developed a series of programs teaching local schoolchildren from primary school to university the basics about organics and growing food. Every January teachers are invited to bring school groups to the farm for a day of eco activities using the farm’s demonstration models:
Making good soil: Kids get to feel the soil (getting hands dirty is always a hit), learn the components of mixing a good natural growing soil, and discover why water filtration is important.
Making compost: Organic and inorganic materials are layered like a cake, in a barrel or in a simple pile.
Vermiculture: ACÁ worms make compost in trays with a layer of partially composted material on the bottom, then a layer of dry green material or kitchen waste, grass clippings, and on top a handful of fresh edible (for worms) garden waste. This shows the role of worms in creating good soil by aerating the soil and adding their own waste as organic fertilizer. Thus kids learn that even lowly worms have an important role in ecosystems.
Poultry Production: Kids get to see how ducks, turkeys, chickens and geese each do their part eating insects, providing fertilizer and even picking weeds. Kids look for eggs, see how eggs hatch into chicks, and learn that animal manure is an important soil nutrient.
Small animal production: The Rabbitry demonstrates how to feed, water and care for animals.
Good bugs vs. bad bugs: Kids look for bugs (a natural!) and then Marie and the crew explain which bugs are bad and which bugs help the crops by pollinating or eating other bugs. These activities are geared to teaching that there is a whole miniature world to be discovered by the close observer.
Herbs for Companion Planting: Kids look at herbs that are beneficial in attracting good insects, herbs that repel nasty ones, herbs that add taste to food, and others that are medicinal herbs grandmothers used to use to cure everything from a common cold to getting rid of fleas.
Growing a plant from seed: Kids get to plant their own seed in paper pots to take home, and also learn to “prick out” seedlings and plant them to take home. They learn what’s happening to regional seed varieties and why preserving heritage seeds is important.
Water Conservation: Kids hear about drip irrigation, the importance of saving water, how important the role of water is and how water flowing through arroyos helps clean impurities.
Recycling & Re-using materials: Kids learn to recycle paper, re-use pots, use apple crates and strawberry boxes to make square foot patio gardens; use a bit of plastic and wire to build a vertical garden.
Here at Lake Chapala, ACÁ’s model farm serves the needs of area kids and school groups as far away as Sonora. If you’d like to contribute, see their website above, where you’ll learn about ACÁ’s mission as well as activities in which you can participate.
For more information about Lake Chapala visit: www.chapala.com