New sustainable garden takes root at Old Trail School

Winter 2014

By Julie Miller

Old Trail School (Ohio), a toddler through eighth-grade program, has teamed up with Hattie's Garden and the Conservancy for Cuyahoga Valley National Park on a new seven-acre organic garden, which students and partners are nurturing on the school's 62 acres nestled in the national park.

Head of School John Farber noted how the farm-to-table unit is happening right at school, as students get involved in the entire food cycle, from preparing the ground to harvesting the produce.

For all students, an early lesson was "Garlic Goes to the Garden." They studied the history of garlic, prepared the beds, and then all 560 students planted one clove each. Next spring, students will participate in harvesting the garlic, which the school will then use in its lunch recipes.

The startup garden is fast becoming a key learning center at Old Trail School. A curricular unit teaches students about the benefits of sustainable gardening and the entrepreneurial factors of operating an urban garden.

The school's partnership with Hattie's Garden, a sustainable gardening program founded in 2011, is mutually valuable. Hattie's Garden is operated by Hattie Larlham, a nonprofit organization that provides medical, residential, recreational, and vocational services for children and adults with developmental disabilities. In this collaboration, people with disabilities are farming about seven acres of land.

"We are thrilled that our students have this incredible opportunity to learn about farming and soil composition while working with the Hattie Larlham employees. This is a tangible example of service learning, and we are excited to grow this partnership in the future," Farber said.

In keeping with Old Trail School's commitment to sustainability, Hattie's Garden composts food scraps from the school's dining room to use in the garden. Additionally, using locally grown produce from Hattie's Garden helps the school minimize its carbon footprint of food consumption.

"This partnership is an example of how organizations can come together in a way that serves the greater good of the region," said Dennis Allen, CEO of Hattie Larlham. "It will expand employment for people with developmental disabilities in Northeast Ohio, educate students about sustainable gardening, and showcase the benefits for students and schools of nutritious eating as part of a strong and healthy learning environment."

Julie Miller

Julie Miller is the communications director at Old Trail School (Ohio).