Friends, families and neighbors of Evanston Township High School are invited to a Community Garden Walk on Sept. 26 to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Edible Acre, a farm-to-school garden program that procures organic produce and provides learning experiences, as well as leadership and job opportunities, for ETHS students. The event, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the high school, 1600 Dodge Ave., is free and open to the public.

Kim Minestra, Director of Nutrition Services at ETHS, says the event is a way to share with the community all that the program has accomplished in the past 10 years.

Highlighting the farm-to-school initiative launched with Edible Acre I, the Community Garden Walk will also showcase the recent renovation of the ETHS Greenhouse, offer a glimpse at the first-year harvest of Edible Acre 2, and show off the 25 Asian pear and apple trees in the Edible Orchard. Guests of all ages will enjoy self-guided tours and scavenger hunts with prizes and takeaways at each of the four garden locations on the ETHS campus.

The initiative began 10 years ago with a partnership between ETHS and The Talking Farm, a not-for-profit organization focused on teaching the community how
to grow food sustainably.

“Our continued partnership with the Talking Farm has been pivotal to the success of the program,” says Ms. Minestra. “Many school gardens are supported by parent volunteers, but when those families move on, the gardens just aren’t sustainable.”

The gardens are mostly maintained by the Talking Farm, but there are many ways students can become involved. Weekly after-school gardening sessions provide an opportunity to learn more about gardening and sustainability practices. Students from the high school’s Urban Agriculture class use the Edible Garden as a classroom. And this year seven students were hired through the Evanston Mayor’s Summer Youth Program to work in the garden.

The harvest from all garden areas is used by the kitchen staff and consumed in the student and staff cafeterias during the regular school year and during summer school. In addition, some of the produce is sold to faculty, staff and School Board members during a 10-week community-supported agricultural (CSA) program.

Ms. Minestra says the program not only saves the department money, but entices students to try new things.

“We always label the produce in the cafeterias that has come from our gardens,” she says. “Our fresh tomato sauce and pesto sauce have been big hits with
the students.”

The evening will begin in the East Courtyard where the ETHS Jazz Band will perform, and light refreshments will be served. Students from the Urban Agriculture class and from the Evanston’s Mayor Summer Youth Program will be on-site to share their experiences and answer questions about their participation.

“We are hoping for a big turnout,” says Ms. Minestra. “We are so proud of all we have accomplished over the past ten years and we’re excited and proud to share it with the community.”

The ETHS Community Garden Walk will be hosted by the ETHS Nutrition Services Department, The Talking Farm, and the ETHS Foundation. Those wishing more information may contact Ms. Minestra at minestrak@eths.k.12.us.