Mendocino County School Gardens in Crisis…


Anderson Valley Advertiser

With summer just starting, students are hardly thinking about next year’s classes. But unless a handful of dedicated educators can pull a rabbit out of their hat, students might find one of their favorite programs missing in the fall.

Twelve years ago, the Network for a Healthy California (NHC) paved the way for Mendocino County’s Garden Enhanced Nutrition Education (GENE) program. Thanks to this funding, Mendocino now has a unique claim to fame: every single public school in the county has a vegetable garden.

For the past decade, garden coordinators have worked with local organizations such as The Gardens Project of North Coast Opportunities Community Action, as well as other organizations and volunteers, to get these gardens up and running. Teachers have incorporated the gardens into their lessons, and the food services staff at some of the schools use what’s grown in the meals they serve.

These 32 gardens at the 32 public schools in unified school districts — plus all the private school gardens — serve more than 8,000 kids every year throughout Mendocino county.

However, in a devastating blow to this successful program, all NHC funding has been cancelled. Starting in the 2013-2014 school year, schools must find the funds to keep GENE running, or shut their gardens down.

“It’s ironic,” says GENE Program Coordinator Terry D’Selkie. “This year our gardens are better than ever before, and all of a sudden, the funding is gone.”

D’Selkie is working with each school’s garden coordinator — all of whom will be laid off unless a new funding stream is found — as well as school administration and staff, parents, and community members to find a long-term solution to keep the gardens running. She estimates that each school garden needs eight to ten thousand dollars a year to operate; a remarkably small amount considering the program’s benefits.

“Students love it,” says D’Selkie. “For many of them, it’s their favorite part of the day.” Since the program started, attendance levels are up. The cause? Students don’t want to miss out on garden time. GENE also helps attention span in the classroom, since kids are able to move their bodies and expend energy in the garden before heading back inside.

The traditional classroom does not address the learning styles of all students, and garden lessons are an eye-opener for kids who need to see something in action to really process it. “Science and math become much more interactive when it’s done in a living classroom,” says D’Selkie. In a report commissioned by the Center for Ecoliteracy in 2003, California middle school students who participated in garden-based instruction experienced significant gains in GPA, specifically math and science.

School gardens also help establish a pride of place among students. “We’re part of an agricultural community,” says Susan Lightfoot, Farm2Fork Coordinator. “These gardens help weave kids into the fabric of our community.” Teachers are also proud to work at schools with gardens. The same Ecoliteracy report showed that teachers working in schools with garden programs have higher morale and greater job satisfaction.

Of course, the garden programs also educate kids about nutrition and help them make healthy and lasting choices — the primary goal of NHC and a proven outcome of garden and nutrition education. In a study done by the Journal of the American Dietetic Association showed students involved in garden-based education more than doubled their daily fruit and vegetable consumption. “I learned to try new fruits and veggies,” says Cody Shepard, a student at Eagle Peak Middle School. “After seeing food grow, I am more aware of what I eat.”

Fall is just around the corner, and without significant commitment from every school board and the community to keep the GENE program afloat, these established gardens will revert to weeds. “When I think about the gardens being closed, I feel really sad,” says Shepard. “I see a lot of people growing gardens now, but I never would have started without learning about it in school first.”

If you’re interested in volunteering with or donating to your local school garden, contact Terry D’Selkie at



These gardens are some of the very best things we can be doing for our children. Is there anything more important to educate our children about than food? Is there anything that would be better for our children today than getting them started early to learn about real, life, healthy food that they can grow themselves? If we have to cut back, I’ve got to believe there are better things to cut than this? What do you think?

Growing and eating your own food has so many obvious benefits. The children are active, they are interacting socially outdoors getting fresh air and sunshine, they are eating wholesome vitamin and mineral-rich vegetables, learning how to grow and prepare their own foods, the list goes on and on.
I am sure many health benefits will also become apparent (little to no obesity, mental clarity and alertness resulting in better grades and creating relationships with the others, etc.)

I hope they are able to raise funds for such an important and honorable program!

Another link in the chain of oppression is forged here. We are in the midst of a massive Class War. All our lives we have been propagandized to believe that this war does not exist in spite of the evidence of our eyes and ears. This is particularly tragic in that so little money is involved, Diane or her husband, Mr. Blum, could just write a check for the whole thing out of current accounts and hardly notice. That is what it is like to be on the other side of the class war. The destruction of public education is always an issue when a handful of people set out to dispossess and enslave their countrymen.

“California’s per-student spending of $8,482 was $3,342 – 28 percent – below the national average of $11,824. Only Nevada ($8,419) and Utah ($7,042) spent less.”

California is a rich state.

But the absolute value of this abandonment of the future is less revealing than the rate of decline which is breathtaking. At this rate California will have very little in the way of public education, having substituted private academies for the privileged and privately run, for profit “schools,” that are indistinguishable from institutions devoted to incarceration. This direction is clearly evident. What is unclear is who is involved in making these decisions against our future.

My theory is that a small, mutually supportive group of sociopaths/psychopaths are just playing with us for their immediate gratification with no interest in any aspect of the far future except that no resistance to their absolute rule is to be tolerated. An educated, secure population is a horrible thought to people seeking absolute power. Fortunately they will inadvertently destroy the very dominator culture that raised them up. Poetic justice.

Any community that chooses to be dependent on funding from afar is bound to be disappointed repeatedly in the near future. All those apples are poisoned. Look great at first then down the road become yet another reason for grief. No apples for the teachers, please.

Of course, we could, if we wanted to, organize as a community to control the destructive effects of the social meltdown that we are trapped in, such as this tragic dispossession of our children’s gardens. Extremely unlikely, but possible.


Just curious WHICH entity pulled the funding plug?

This story presupposes that the reader knows the source of the funding (the state bureaucracy?) and the decision chain leading to the cuts. Why is it simply accepted, that, oh well, “they” cut the funds? How’s about a little accountability and some head rolling, if there are, as is likely, “heads” involved.

    In a sense I really don’t need to know. It is the NGO/foundation/ complex system itself that is the problem. We need other ways to finance schools. Other than taxing those who have lots of discretionary money, of course.


So there you have it, 8 to 10 thousand dollars a year to operate per school. There are individuals out there, in this county, plenty of them, who could fund the program in a local school single-handedly. There are community organizations that could do it. Forget bake sales (they’re illegal anyway; ask the Environmental Health Dept.). This could be turned around with a serious community effort — once we’ve gotten over the notion that all good things, and the funding for them, come from somewhere else. But the “NGO/foundation/ complex system” has made all of us think there’s no way out once the federal/state/foundation funds dry up.

“In our dreams, people yield themselves with perfect docility to our molding hands. The present education conventions of intellectual and character education fade from their minds and unhampered by tradition we work our own good will upon a grateful and responsive folk. We shall not try to make these people or any of their children into men of learning or philosophers, or men of science.
We have not to raise up from them authors, educators, poets or men of letters, great artists, painters, musicians, nor lawyers, doctors, (he’s really covering the whole gamut of employment isn’t he?) statesmen, politicians, creatures of whom we have ample supply (whoever the pronoun we is meant to stand for there). The task is simple. We will organize children and teach them in an perfect way the things their fathers and mothers are doing in an imperfect way”.
1st Mission Statement from J. Rockefeller’s General Education Board. 1906

Back in the early 1900’s, the Robber Baron’s of that time set up foundations to control and influence the public education system as well as shelter their massive profits.

There purpose was to train good, obedient factory workers for their planned Industrial Revolution. The Rockefeller, Ford, Guggenheim foundations were formed as the primary drivers to set up a central controlled education system.

These foundations, with their tax- exempt tremendous wealth, which are still in power today, created the General Education Board (to control curriculum), the American Historical Society (to control how history was recorded) and the Columbia Teachers University (to control how the teachers taught).

They then got Federal government to centralize all funding through property taxes, state tax, etc so that disbursements for education could be centralized and controlled by the wealthy elite.

In the 1950’s the Reese Commission found these foundations to be exerting over arching top down influence over all public education, yet no changes were made due to intense political pressures.

Large publishing companies like Houghton, Mifflin, Harcourt provide the national education material for teachers and students alike. HMH was just recently sold from the Bain Company, owned by Mitt Romney.

Now states like New Jersey, promoted by the NJ Teachers Associaton, are heading towards private management corporate control of their public education systems as well as the NGO behemoth, Gates Foundation, which wants to track teacher performance through galvanized bracelets and RFID devices on students and use students private data to sell to marketing corporations.

Meanwhile our Federal government promotes programs like “No Child Left with a Mind” and “Race to the Top for the Very Few” to chase ‘scarce’ funding while our states, like California, threaten mass funding cuts to public schooling if voters don’t approve state tax hikes for everyone.

If we all are paying into this charade of a public education system through our federal, and state taxing system, centrally controlled by those who wish nothing better than to produce obedient non-thinking laborers for their own needs, then the answer is that we stop paying into this system and take control of the money ourselves.

If our school district were to self fund its education in Mendocino County by redirecting our money we pay in we would have more than ample funds to support the type of education systems, like healthy school food gardens, we wish for our children and not be beholden to outside entities that can at will defund healthy programs from our schools.

It’s our money, shouldn’t we have the say as to how that money is spent for our children’s education and what type of public education we wish them to have?

Why are there Amazon adds?

Hell with California seceding from the U.S. Why half measures you say. Let Anderson Valley secede from California. Give em hell J. Lee.

Supremacist rhetoric like is quoted from the odious Mr. Rockafucker can be found at every age in the Arc of Dominator culture. In the acorn of individual competition is hidden the great oak of tyranny. I agree with Einstein who said that, with the advent of the nuclear age everything has changed except the way people think. Thinking and motivation are primary, technology and oppression derivative, in determining outcome. What gets pejoratively called “collectivism,” and I call common sense, is the antipode of the system of intraspecies predation that is now threatening us with extinction. Turns out that, given the absence of coercive authority, we ordinary folks are quite capable of meeting our own needs as a community of cooperating individuals, thank you. Of course this contradicts the primary teachings of every dominator religion that fashion our self image to suit their need to dominate us. Free people are people who are awake emotionally and intellectually and therefore capable of critical judgement. In my experience the more “civilized” (i.e. better teeth and clothes) a person the less they are capable of seeing the truth through critical judgement.

All supremacist rhetoric, be it classiest, or some derivative of bigotry or prejudice, represents the core of the dominator thought system that tells folks that they live on a scale of entitlement, branded for all purposes like some form of quality labeled commodity as those of greater and lesser value. Strength and abundance (and perhaps the evasion of the eternal night of extinction) are the properties of mutual aid and basic decency in ascendence, scarcity and denigration the properties of the dominator culture in all its guises. If you are in situations where there are people not contributing because their work is seen as not valuable and their presence, maybe their existence, optional, then you are working in a dominator frame. Watch your back and pray for the collapse of civilization.