What’s happening at Tower Street School Community Center
Officially named and started in 2012 by afterschool students, the Grow and Go Seek Garden provides a place for learning, physical activity, and connecting to the land. This interactive and exploratory classroom, shared by the Westerly community, is a haven for delicious food that is as healthy for us as it is for the land. The overarching theme of healthy and sustainable living led us down a new path during the winter of 2016 when we decided to apply for organic certification. From the beginning, we had been following National Organic Program (NOP) Standards but never dreamed that a small school garden could pass the challenging application and certification process. Ayers Foundation and Hillandale Farm encouraged and supported the application process and helped guide us on the journey. As Matt Greene, Environmental Scientist from Rhode Island DEM Division of Agriculture, communicated issues of noncompliance our “hands in the dirt team” addressed each issue. Our final inspection took place on August 18 (my birthday!) and on October 14 we were notified we had passed.
What does this mean moving forward? The work on a farm never ends - it ebbs and flows with the seasons but never takes time off. NOP Standards require that organic farm plans must be followed and re-certified each year. For our students, this mean fall-winter tasks of planting cover crops, soil testing, sourcing organic seeds, upkeep on tools and garden sheds , planning crop rotation and re-examining weed management and pest control.
The most exciting part will be next spring when we begin to tag the produce we eat and donate with the official organically grown in RI sticker.
Organic or conventionally grown, “creating a real-world connection to food and farming is the best way to re-connect each of us to our bodies, good health and the environment”.
Max & Uli Hence, Ayers Foundation