For many students the end of the school year is fast approaching, for students at Burlington High School this means YES Programs are in full swing. Year End Studies (YES) Programs are two week non-traditional intensive courses that can focus on topics ranging from foreign language, poetry, and paper mache classes to training for a 10K, advanced lake fishing, gluten free baking, and a trip Scandinavia (the full course description book is worth a look).
“Burlington Farming: Growing the Future” is one of the many amazing courses that students can sign-up for (my high school self probably would have chosen “Welcome to Middle Earth”). The class focuses on the “thriving and growing farm and garden culture” in our small city, with trips to local farms and community gardens where students lend a hand planting, tending and harvesting produce.
For the past three years I’ve worked with students for the first three days of this YES Program to prepare and plant the two large production gardens in our school district. For me, these are the three most important and most fun days of the year. Here are some of the highlights from this year’s program:
Day 1: Preparing the Front Garden and Cleaning up the Perennial Garden at Burlington High School
- Sixteen fearless high school students arrive and jump right into some serious work after a quick tutorial on weed extraction (including how to tell what’s a weed and what’s not).
- Two students brave pruning and trellising the prickly raspberry bushes.
- The rototiller refuses to start and a single student tills a 10’x40’ space with a shovel.
- A handful of students work to re-establish the garden beds that were inevitably plowed over (as they are every year) during the snowy winter months.
- Half the gang rallies to unload and spread 4 yards of mulch.
- Two giant pick-up trucks are entirely filled with weeds and garden debris.
Day 2: Preparing and Planting the Hunt Middle School Garden
- Two students show up a half hour early and expertly dismantle a 190 foot long old fence without any urging… they just love to work that much.
- These two students now team up with a few others to begin installing a new fence with the help of Brian, the high school English teacher who manages this YES Program. A giant gas-powered auger is involved.
- The rest of the crew helps transplant over 100 starts (planted by the Food Science class earlier in the school year).
- Once the plants are in, students band together to install over 500 feet of drip tape and approximately 200 feet of row cover.
Day 3: Preparing and Planting the Left Field Garden at Burlington High School
Students clear the pathways and beds of weeds in record time.
- A yard of compost is delivered and added to the newly re-established beds.
- A core team transplants another 100 starts, including multiple varieties of winter squash and hot peppers (which will eventually be coveted by the Food Service staff to make soup and Food Science students to make salsa).
- Three students tame the always unruly asparagus bed.
- We break out the power tools and a handful of ladies assemble a large wooden trellis for the tomatoes.
- A special delivery of popsicles and ice cream sandwiches arrive and we celebrate three incredible days of truly amazing and dedicated work.
- One students stays 45 minutes late, quietly helping me trellis the tomatoes. He doesn’t ask for direction, just sees the job and decides to help.