We often hear or use the phrase, “paying it forward.” This usually pertains to doing a good deed for others or a random act of kindness. We’ve been using this phrase the past couple weeks at the Manhattan Country School Farm to reflect on our gardening practices.
Our students, first and foremost are soil farmers. It’s necessary to supply new, organic matter to our vegetable gardens. The basis of preparing and building soil with a balance of nutrients each plant requires is vital in providing healthy and delicious foods for our community.
The past two weeks our 8-9’s Oeste and Este classes were at the Farm. Oeste was busy in the gardens, harvesting the last of our root crops like potatoes and carrots. They pulled weeds and fed them to our chickens and turned the soil over by hand. During meal preparation, each class added potato peels, fruit skins and egg shells to our compost bucket. When cleaning our cow stalls the kids dump the manure, old sawdust and hay into the spreader which is either broadcast on our hay fields or piled in the compost barn. The mix of animal and plant waste is then turned periodically to aid the decomposition process which creates rich organic soils.
The Este homeroom arrived with the task of adding the nutrient rich compost to the garden beds during Farming class. With the bucket of our tractor full of compost, some kids shoveled it into wheelbarrows while others dumped it into the beds and spread it around. This process continued throughout the week, seeing most of the lower garden finished. Almost every meal served at the MCS Farm has direct connections to our garden. However, this week we enjoyed an ingredient connected directly to the process of decomposition.
In September, our 5th grade class inoculated logs with oyster mushroom spores and stacked them totem style in the farmhouse basement. As the mycelium spread through the logs and began the process of breaking down the wood fibers it also “fruited” providing us with beautiful mushrooms. Wednesday evening dinner was pizza prepared by kids in cooking class. The topping choices were sweet Italian sausage made from our pigs and beautiful oyster mushrooms growing in our dark basement.
Even though every student a MCS doesn’t perform each task in the garden due to the seasonality of their trips, they do have knowledge that someone has come before them. The 9-10’s and 6th grade will do the bulk of the planting on their spring trips in May, but every member of our MCS Farm community will enjoy the fruits of all labor and our practice of paying it forward.