SVHC Member Update: Nina

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Nina-PhotoNina Vuoso

I moved to San Jose in August 2012 to serve at Veggielution community farm as a Youth Education Coordinator. After having studied Nutritional Biochemistry for four years at UC Davis, I was excited to share what I had learned and get my hands in the soil– to return to the origins of food.

The first time I walked through school garden at Goss Elementary School– where I was to lead activities, give nutrition and cooking lessons with the students, and organize social and garden maintenance events with the school families– I walked over a dry lawn covered in bindweed, with a square patch mulched over. It was a blank canvas for the school garden that didn’t exist yet. Over the year, the garden underwent transformations. With the help of the parents rallied the previous year, garden beds were built, installed, planted, and harvested. Students began to see the unremarkable lawn on the side of their school as an outdoor classroom. And that after spending some time there with this crazy lady named Miss Nina, they’d go on a field trip to Veggielution in Emma Prusch Park. Every few weeks an entire grade level walked from Goss Elementary to the transforming farm for a field trip, with 180 students cooking and eating farm-fresh produce.

The garden’s development over the year followed my learning curve of the term. The garden swelled with bountiful fruits and vegetables when, during a well-run garden lesson, sixty fifth graders transplanted brassicas into the beds, and when after school, a few students gleefully filled the corners of the beds with small dry peas. Crops bolted and died as I realized a system was needed to better coordinate and involve the parents and teachers, when I spent more time focusing on other duties on the farm and away from the garden. Many people–from the teachers, principal, parents, students, coordinators at Veggielution, myself– learned lessons during the first year of the Goss Garden.

During this first year, I learned to be flexible. Since I arrived last September, Veggielution rearranged itself, expanding to 6 acres, sprouting new buildings and facilities, and altering its procedures; an empty lawn grew into a modest garden; the students consider me one of their teachers. I am excited to apply what I have learned from this past year with the teachers, parents, principal, and most importantly students to refine the garden program at Goss during the 2013-14 term.