Sunday, 2 May 2010

A good grounding for the future on both sides of the pond

Drake's Church of England Primary School in East Budleigh

I'm always on the look-out for similarities and sometimes for differences between the way we do things on this side of the Atlantic and how they do them over in our sister-town of Brewster on Cape Cod.

By coincidence it was about three years ago on both sides of the pond that people had the bright idea of training young gardeners of the future on plots of land which had been specially set aside for vegetable production.

Spring has been a long time coming this year but a few months ago, despite an icy east wind still blowing, the Upper Years' pupils of Drake's Church of England Primary School in East Budleigh, were up at their allotment preparing the beds for some early crops.

The children had already worked hard during their Big Dig last November in preparation for the 2010 planting. Two of the beds had manure dug in and the children broadcast wheat into one bed and barley into the other. "The children will still be growing fruit and vegetables this year but we are also looking at arable farming", said Headteacher Carron Saunders.

The children, aged between 9 and 11, have been planting potatoes, onions and rhubarb, and then some salad crops as soon as the ground warmed up a little. More tender crops such as peas, beans and pumpkins will be started from seed at school and then planted out in April and May.

“We secured a school plot at the village allotment in April 2007 as a dynamic opportunity for the children to learn about crop production and the work and effort that goes into growing our food," said Carron Saunders. All of the pupils become actively involved and then we harvest what we’ve produced and bring it back to the school for teaching purposes and for our kitchen! It’s a wonderful way to get everyone at the school gaining an understanding about food production and the benefits of healthy eating. It has also proved valuable for giving the children an appreciation of careful planning, team work and another chance to work in the fresh air! It’s proving to be a great asset.”

Over in Brewster at the Lower Cape Children’s Garden they're just as busy. But this is an enterprise organised in out of school time and funded by local organisations such as the Master Gardeners' Association of Cape Cod. It's also based on the interesting idea of mentoring, with children being paired on a one-to-one basis with adults happy to share their knowledge.

And just as in East Budleigh the children can feel, as they dig and plant in the soil, that they are carrying on, in a historic place, tasks that their forebears engaged in for centuries for the benefit of their community.

Drake's School pupils dig ground on which Sir Walter Raleigh the Elizabethan explorer of America and Roger Conant, founder of Salem Massachusetts, may have walked. Both men were born in East Budleigh. And Brewster's young gardeners and their mentors are working on land which long ago served as the planting fields of the Saquatucket tribe of Red Indians who had settled in this part of Cape Cod, long before the arrival of white men.

Brewster resident and writer Myka-Lynne Sokoloff tells the full story of the Lower Cape Children’s Garden at

To find out more about the Indian tribes on Cape Cod, click on

Text and picture credits:

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