Thursday, May 2, 2013

Garza High School and Farm to Table Host Student-Led Garden Tour on June 1

Garza High School Offers Unique Take on Education
With Initiatives That Empower Students:
Upcoming Student-Led Garden Tour to Help Raise Awareness of Garza’s Gardens


Gonzalo Garza Independence High School is taking an uncommon and progressive approach to teaching — an approach that’s leading to growth and success for many students who might otherwise face difficulty on their path to graduation. Founded in 1997 to foster a community of empowered learners by challenging each individual student to succeed now and in their future, Garza provides a learning environment steeped in mutual respect, trust, optimism and ambition.

Garza’s solution-focused approach enables students to be in control of their own destiny and turn their personal struggles and life problems into strengths. The administrators, as well as every teacher, social worker and staff member, inspire hope in the students and teach that the small steps students take can lead to big changes in their lives. Thanks to the dedication of the staff, and a variety of unique learning initiatives, at-risk students attend culturally and academically enriching classes, graduate from high school and successfully transition to college life and careers.

The horticulture program is one of the school’s many successful initiatives. This program is aimed at giving students a better understanding of and appreciation for nutrition, environmental issues, sustainable food production and the economy. Students plant and raise vegetables that are then given to the school cafeteria in onsite vegetable beds, alongside garden beds where teachers grow their own plants, much like a community garden. Garza will also soon launch an aquaponics system so the program can become sustainable in terms of planting material and water use.

Garza’s Gardens, a market-garden business run by the school’s horticulture students, gives students the opportunity to raise herbs such as rosemary, lavender, thyme, marjoram, oregano, mint, Mexican mint, marigold, hoja santa and sage. As part of the program, students grow, pick and package the herbs for sale to Farm to Table, which distributes locally grown farm products to area restaurants and chefs, commercial kitchens, cafeterias and independent grocery stores.

“It used to be a bunch here and a bunch there, but now it's a pound here and a pound there," says Farm to Table owner John Lash, whose herb purchases from Garza’s Gardens have increased over the years.

By distributing the herbs, Farm to Table will contribute to the implementation of the aquaponics system so Garza’s horticulture students can grow certain crops year-round.

“With my facilitation and help from the Texas State University Enactus Program, the students are in charge of the production, marketing and sales of the herbs,” says Garza Horticulture facilitator Martha Cason. “Garza’s Gardens is a vehicle by which students learn the principles of business and economics in a very hands-on, experiential way.”

In an effort to raise community awareness about Garza’s garden initiatives and help educate the public about freshly grown herbs, the school will host a free garden tour and educational event on Saturday, June 1 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Students will lead personalized garden tours, and some homemade baked goods will be provided. Additionally, Austin pastry chefs Steven Cak of parkside, Alexandra Manley of Josephine House and Jeffrey’s, and Laura Sawicki of La Condesa, who are customers of Garza’s Gardens, will be on hand to share with community visitors how they cook with Garza farm products in unexpected ways, and may even provide visitors with recipe cards and samples.                      

Gonzalo Garza Independence High School is a public school in the Austin Independent School District and is located at 1600 Chicon St. in East Austin. For more information about the school, its unique initiatives and the garden tour and educational event, call (512) 414-8600 or visit http://garzaindependencehs.weebly.com.

For more information about Farm to Table and the area farmers and customers the business works with, call (512) 568-2071 or visit www.FarmToTableTX.com.
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