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City Farm Blog: Summer Solstice 2015

The longest day of the year is a notable occasion for vegetables as well as for those who grow them.

It marks the end of Pacific Beach High School’s seventh marking period and the conclusion of its first year of collaboration with Central Coast Grown in the City Farm School Project. Some students who participated in the pilot program during Pacific Beach’s first Summer School Session 12 months ago proudly graduated.

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Fifteen others enrolled in this year’s Summer School, which continues until the end of June. And many more are looking forward to working at City Farm while earning academic credit by taking the Food System and Agro Ecology class that will be offered by teacher Anne Wilder throughout the 2015-2016 academic year.

The continuance and expansion of our educational programs was guaranteed last week by the announcement of grant awards applied for in late winter and early spring from the United Way Community Impact Fund, The San Luis Obispo Community Foundation, The Harold Miossi Trust, and the Henry Mayo Newhall Foundation.

An additional grant from the Rotary Club of San Luis Obispo allowed us to construct a sorely needed toolshed.

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The months of May and June were busy with planting, harvest and cooking activities in the school garden originally created by students a year ago.

Circular beds and paths were improved with compost and woodchips contributed by Cal Poly and local arborists.

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Small groups of students took ownership of specific beds and planted the traditional Native American “three sisters” crops,” corn, beans and squash, mutually supportive in soil chemistry and in providing climbing structure and ground cover.

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The last fava beans were harvested and cooked and one patch was allowed to dry in the field to provide next season’s seeds.

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Students encountered challenges of organic pest management by setting gopher traps, extending the height of our deer fence and squooshing cucumber beetles before they destroyed the ripening bush beans.

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And the harvested food prepared in our camp kitchen continued to expand in variety as spring progressed.

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Every week brought exciting new developments in the field adjoining the school garden where farm manager and educator Nicki Anderson began tilling, irrigating, fertilizing, planting and cultivating a full range of crops for commercial scale production.

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As she applied her agricultural expertise, she enlisted teams of students to carry out the hard work and engaged them in learning to deal with the unique challenges of our heavy clay soil and unpredictable weather.

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Despite several reverses, by the end of the school year these efforts already were producing impressive yields both in quantity and quality. The Salvation Army Food Pantry, to which students had been contributing vegetables since early spring, no longer could handle all that we had to offer.

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So Nicki initiated a donation program with GleanSLO, which distributed all we could provide to the County Food Bank.

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Another planned outlet for produce distribution is a farmstand along our Highway 101 frontage, but that has been deferred due to the construction of a new sewer line and expected construction of a temporary freeway offramp. However, City Farm is now filling small orders for restaurants and caterers. The hope is to pack boxes of produce for direct sale to the public through the creation of Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program before long.

As City Farm programs expand on many fronts they require more staffing. This need has just been addressed with the hire of a part-time, recent Cal Poly Graduate, Nico to work on the farm, and with the addition of a full-time summer intern Stanford student, Quillan Smith, financed by the Haas Center for Public Service.(both pictured above)

You can see them hard at work and stay up to date with everything that’s growing at City Farm in captioned images now issuing regularly at the City Farm Instagram site: https://instagram.com/cityfarmslo/

Steven Marx