On Thursday and Friday last week, 130 Killip Elementary School students descended upon Northern Arizona University’s Sustainable Living and Urban Gardening garden (SSLUG) to learn about earthworms, harvest corn and raspberries, make tortillas and get to know the .2-acre South Campus plots.
The event at the SSLUG garden was held in collaboration with the Sustainable Communities Master's Program, Flagstaff Foodlink, FoodCorps and Fit Kids as part of the NAU First Year Seminar (FYS) class Farm to School. Farm to School connects NAU freshmen with community garden initiatives. This includes the Killip Elementary School garden program and Fit Kids class, the class meets daily with each grade participating on different days, according to James Haynie, Fit Kids School Health coordinator at Killip.
The program is run as a 30-minute class in which Haynie and FoodCorps volunteers cover topics such as food groups and parts of plants. The class also involves engaging the kids in gardening -- digging, planting, weeding and harvesting.
The trip to NAU was comprised just of fourth- and fifth-graders from Killip.
“The [Killip] students harvested Hopi blue corn at the SSLUG garden, which they’re drying out this week for our annual harvest festival,” said Rosemary Logan, who teaches Farm to School. “They harvested the entire raspberry patch too. That was their favorite part, I think -- sampling that, the mint and some pears from the pear tree.”
Logan, who has a Ph.D. in Education for Sustainability from Prescott College, has taught the seminar since 2013. According to her, this year's group consists of 20 undergraduate students; two Sustainable Communities (SUS) graduate assistants, Kira Farmer and Darren Bingham; and two peer facilitators, Garce Booher and Bridgette Brados.
Each FYS student is required to complete two hours at Killip's garden program each week. They also participated in the three weeks of planning for the event at the SSLUG garden, sketching out five stations in the garden: Corn harvesting/hand grinding/tortilla making; medicinal and edible plants; soils; pollinators; and a scavenger hunt to find the compost pile, rain water harvesting barrels, berry patch and pear tree.
SSLUG was founded in 2000 by two master’s students in the SUS program in collaboration alongside NAU’s Applied Indigenous Studies. Marina Vasquez, who works as a Traditional Learning Scholar, was a main contributor at the time, bringing in medicinal and some native plants as part of the garden.
At last week's event, Vasquez led the tortilla-making station, grinding and forming Hopi blue corn in the campus hogan.
"In the Killip Garden, we try to make an effort to grow culturally relevant foods, so making sure we’re growing a variety of Navajo blue corn or other types of blue corn, having a salsa garden...that’s something we’ve wanted to continue to work on," Logan said. "It's a priority."
With help from a $2,000 food grant from Whole Foods in 2016 -- which was used in the purchase of kitchen supplies -- there has also been a strong focus on preparing the food grown and harvested in the Killip garden. This year students picked apples that were then pressed to juice and made into pie at the annual Killip Harvest Festival this Friday.
The partnership between NAU and Killip goes back 10 years, with Food Corps and Fit Kids stepping on board about a year ago, according to Logan.