A Story of Environmental StewardshipMarch 2, 2017
One of the Verde Valley School Guiding Principles is Environmental Stewardship – nebulous words that can mean many things to many different people – person to person, family to family, and culture to culture. When I volunteered to take on the role of Sustainability Coordinator here at VVS it was because I didn’t want to lose the gains made by a group of people tied to the school. We had made progress despite nearly constant disagreement about the path forward.
When the composting program yielded excellent soil and VVS Farm Manager, Michael Spielman said he needed it for the nascent garden, it seemed like an easy decision to bring it to him. But it wasn’t. To do this right, there were hoops to jump through before we could incorporate our compost into our food production. In the early days, Catrien van Assendelft navigated the logistics it took to be above board with the state of Arizona. When the state didn’t have clear guidelines, we presented ours. They were impressed they gave us the green light to use our compost to grow food that we could then feed our community.
When Mike and I started to tell our story out loud, I think it surprised both of us. A cycle had emerged that anyone connected to environmental stewardship would relate to. The food is grown and harvested to feed our community. Food scraps are composted, blended with yard waste and horse manure. The seeds from our plants are harvested and replanted into a blend of native soil and compost, and regrown into edible and delicious plants that we again share with the community.
We have grown from a garden to a farm and developed our One Third Program: ⅓ of the crops are used in the VVS kitchen to serve fresh, whole foods and reduce our expenses; ⅓ of the production is sold to support the cost of running the farm, and the final ⅓ is for philanthropic causes. We share our produce with the Yavapai Food Council’s Bountiful Kitchen Program, a local non-profit that provides fresh meals to food insecure students.
Again, I think we were surprised when we put our story into words and shared it, and even more so when we started delivering on all of the promises. The work never ends, but that is part of the cycle. When students come to the farm to run experiments, do their work jobs, or volunteer to plant trees in the orchard, another cycle is intertwined. I think if Hamilton and Barbara Warren could see what is happening today, they would be proud and very happy.