The Okanis Garden at Prairie Moon Waldorf School
During the 2008/2009 academic year, Prairie Moon Waldorf School applied for and was awarded two significant grants that enabled the school to become a partner in the local food economy of Lawrence and develop new Nature based curriculum. Partnering with the Community Mercantile Natural Foods Grocery, Citizens for Responsible Planning, and the Lawrence Downtown Farmers’ Market, Prairie Moon was awarded a grant from the Elizabeth Schultz Environmental Fund of the Douglas County Community Foundation to establish the Okanis Garden at the school. During the spring, summer and fall of 2009 a team of volunteer mentors, including experienced market gardener Barbara Clark (Maggie’s Farm) and a paid gardener— Julie Ferreira succeeded by Gillian Luellen—planted, tended and harvested organic vegetables that were sold to Chef Sula Teller at the Community Mercantile, at the Lawrence Farmers’ Market and to ten subscribers to the inaugural Okanis CSA (community supported agriculture.) Students participated in all phases of the project, from planting to harvesting and delivering produce to market.
A second grant was awarded from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment through the Kansas Association for Conservation and Environmental Education (KACEE) to develop Nature and Science curricula based on the garden and the grounds around the school. This water quality themed grant funded the creation of a rain barrel system that harvests water from the large flat roof of the school to be used to irrigate the garden. The awarding of this grant qualified Prairie Moon Waldorf School to be among the first three schools in the state to be named an official Kansas Green School, and the first such school in Douglas County. Board president Rick Mitchell made a presentation about the garden and Prairie Moon Waldorf School at the state-wide Kansas Green Schools Conference held on July 31, 2010 in Wichita.
During the growing season of 2010, 2011 and 2012, the Okanis Market Garden has continued to provide local organic produce to the Lawrence community. The Garden partners in the summers with the United Way of Douglas County Summer of Service program that puts middle and high school students into volunteer projects with non-profit organizations. To date, fifteen students have participated in the program at Okanis Garden.
2013: The Okanis Garden at Prairie Moon Waldorf School will soon have a completed high tunnel that will allow production of vegetables for more months of the year. Prairie Moon grade school students learn gardening as a regular part of the curriculum. Some of the produce will be used in lunches and healthy snacks served at school. The rest will be sold in the community. Many thanks to Rolf Petermann, Mark Osman and Ryan Trembley, who are so ably assisting with the high tunnel construction. And thanks also to the Elizabeth Schultz Environmental Fund of the Douglas County Community Foundation for a grant that allowed the purchase of materials for the high tunnel.
Prairie Moon Waldorf School is proud to be a school-based leader in the areas of local food production, Nature-based science education, soil and water conservation, recycling, composting, energy conservation and other Green School initiatives.
Media Release from the Community Mercantile Natural Foods Grocery
Susan Harper, Owner Services Coordinator
Local School Garden Supplies Produce to Merc Deli
Lawrence, KS (September 1, 2009) – Squash, heirloom tomatoes, pole beans, leeks, sage, potatoes and more. The young gardeners of the Okanis Garden at Prairie Moon Waldorf School, 1853 E. 1600 Road, grow it all and sell it to the Merc Deli, where it is turned into delectable salads, entrees and side dishes. Chef Sula Teller, food services manager at The Merc, has purchased more than 200 pounds of fresh organically grown produce from the Okanis Garden so far this season. She anticipates purchasing more fresh produce throughout the fall. Prairie Moon School revenues from the sale of the produce will fund the completion of the garden shed designed and under construction by the 3rd grade class, as well as providing start up funds for the 2010 garden.
To celebrate the Eat Local Lawrence Challenge, Chef Sula created salads featuring Okanis produce for the Downtown Lawrence Farmers Market patrons to sample during the August 22 market. Prairie Moon students were delighted to discover their products at the market. Okanis Garden volunteer mentor, Barbara Clark, as well as other Prairie Moon representatives were present to answer questions about the Okanis Garden; among other facts, people learned that Okanis is an early English spelling for Kansas, the ‘people of the south wind’.
The Okanis Garden was established with a grant received from the Elizabeth Schultz Environmental Fund through the Douglas County Community Foundation. The school was also awarded a Kansas Green Schools Water Quality Grant to develop a Nature curriculum, to fund instruction at a Water summer camp and to develop a rain barrel system.
Partnering with the Prairie Moon Waldorf School on the garden project are Citizens for Responsible Planning and the Community Mercantile. More assistance, support and advice comes from the Downtown Lawrence Farmers Market, Rolling Prairie Farmers Alliance and the KU Center for Sustainability.