Children at Lillian Larsen Elementary School in San Miguel yelled “radishes!” in a gleeful chorus Monday morning as they watched a delivery of 60 raised vegetable planter boxes donated by Sunset Savor the Central Coast.
The bounty was grown for a vegetable display at the second annual food and wine event held over the weekend at Santa Margarita Ranch.
Agriculture science teacher Christina Wilkinson has big plans for the vegetables, not only to teach students how to grow and cook with them, but also to involve their parents and other local residents. It’s just one of the school’s efforts to focus on healthy lifestyles.
“We want to make this a community garden — a neighborhood effort,’’ Wilkinson said. “My hope is that this will become a community working together.”
Local farmers market organizers had mentioned Wilkinson’s project to Savor event organizers, who then encouraged the donation.
San Luis Obispo farmer Ralph Johnson, who grew the veggies, was among a host of volunteers involved in the donation to the school.
As the 4-by-4-foot redwood planters were moved from a semi-truck to the ground, Wilkinson pointed out carrots, basil, edible flowers, tomatoes, lettuce, onions, squash and more to the students and adults.
As the collection grew, other classes filed out of the pre-kindergarten through eighth-grade school, and teachers held lessons around the event.
“We really want to raise parent involvement,” Wilkinson said. “These kids love cooking, love planting, and if the kids love to dig in the soil and plant and then cook with what they grow, then we want the parents to do it with them,” she said.
The garden, which Wilkinson has already plotted out a design for on a northeastern parcel at the school, could open to the community as soon as spring, or summer at the latest, she said.
It will complement her current curriculum in the after-school Soils to Succulent Flavors class for third through seventh grades.
“We’ll taste this food raw in the kitchen, then cook it with a recipe,” she said. The students will soon make pesto with the herbs, she added, and the lettuce crops will be used in the school cafeteria next week.
Wilkinson’s Ag and Opportunity classes, for students in sixth through eight grades, will also use the garden.
Lillian Larsen has several programs to encourage healthy lifestyles. Among them are the Healthy Hornets, a group of seventh- and eighth-grade students who mentor younger students in the importance of good eating and exercise. Physical education teacher Eileen Rogers is also a health advocate for students.