Farming Workshops for SelfDesign High
For the next few weeks, a group of high school students of Nelson's SelfDesign High will be joining me at Nelson Urban Acres once a week to learn about food, farming and sustainability. My good friend Paula Sobie (whom I've mentioned before here and here) connected me with this group, and we agreed, what better way to teach kids about sustainability than to check out their local urban farm! And what better month to do it than April, Earth Month.
Yesterday half the group joined me at my house to do some soil-blocking. Soil blocks are an alternative soil medium to seedling pots. Eliot Coleman, master organic farmer in Maine, swears by them. They are a little more work to set up than seedling trays or pots. You need a special tool, called a soil blocker, as well as a special recipe for the soil mix for the blocks to stay together.
However, I think Eliot Coleman finds the benefits of soil blocks outweigh the extra time expense. Apparently roots don't get root-bound in the same way they can in plastic pots; the roots are ready to shoot out into the earth as soon as they're placed in the ground, rather than find their way out of an entanglement. Also, less handling of the sensitive roots is necessary when transplanting the seedlings into the ground, and that kind of handling can really stunt the growth of some plants, especially cucumbers and squash.
With the high school group we talked all about seeds and how they relate to our food system. It was interesting to learn what they've heard about how food is grown, what "local" or "organic" mean to them, and what they've heard about controversial topics, for instance, genetic engineering. Then they got their hands dirty and used the soil blocker to whip up some soil blocks. Finally, they sowed some cucumber seeds.
Here are some photos of the morning: