Hands in the Dirt
DeBray, a 19-year-old Elko native, has been a gardening educator at Pine Middle School, where she has been working with special education kids.
“A big thing is just to get them outside, just to have them with their hands in the dirt, pulling up roots in the garden, learning about these vegetables, learning about how good they can be. They think, oh, this salty snack, it's so yummy, but why not try this pepper? That's just as good, you know. I think they just don't have the exposure to it anymore. It's not as important to them. But once they like have the ache for gardening, like oh, how cool this is, I just grew this myself, I think the whole reward thing right there drives it more.”
Try It at Home and In the Future
DeBray says some of the kids want to then try planting at home, but she also sees even more futuristic value.
“They can grow these carrots, these potatoes, they can grow any of that at home and I think that's good in itself,” she said. “They're in such an amazing generation with so many new ways of learning and the technology is amazing, but they're going to find these ways to grow things and they're going to make them better and they're just, they're going to take this knowledge and run with it. So if we can just plant the seed in their brain, they'll grow an amazing flower of what to do with everything.”
A Wide Range of Programs, Partnerships and Plants
DeBray has also helped with the Little Farmers program, for younger kids, at Rancho San Rafael Park, which will start again in March. “They're so fun. They just like take watering cans, water, whatever. We have garden beds down there and they'll go and water everything, they'll pick and harvest. They're just little balls of fire,” she said of that experience.
At the Urban Teaching Farm, Jenny Angius, the development director, explains they host regular field trips from the Washoe County school district. They also have farm camps coinciding with school breaks here. She lists all the companies which have helped with different projects, from Lowe’s to Moana Nursery.
Angius also emphasizes how kids bring new knowledge home, which can lead to eating healthier. “They are trying more fresh produce there,” she said. “They're taking care of mother nature, they're starting to compost… If they're learning where their food comes from, that's a beautiful thing. They're learning that it comes out of the ground, not in this package. That's a great start,” she said.
Opening one high tunnel after another, the farm and garden manager Daphnne Ekmanis proudly lists what they grow at the teaching farm. “Arugula, mustard greens, radishes, kale, carrots, beets, what else? Broccoli, spinach, cabbage….”
Many of the plants are wilting as winter is approaching, and cars drive by noisily, but here in this little corner of Reno, it does feel like a much needed haven of green positivity and possibility.