School Garden

Pod Adan Romo
Students creating the garden.Mr. Romo planting seeds in the garden.Digital rendering of the garden before it was created in 2011.

To forget how to dig the earth and tend the soil is to forget ourselves – Mohandas K. Gandhi

I recall the meeting two years ago where the possibility of creating a garden on the St. Francis campus was first discussed. Director of Finance Sharon Tobar, Plant Manager Larry Carson, School Board member and local farmer Craig McNamara and I began to strategize a garden that could be wholly integrated into the school’s curriculum, culture, and food program. Here students could learn the essentials of organic gardening.

In many ways our vision for the garden grew as organically as the garden we hoped to create. Starting with the large unused patch of earth sandwiched between the classrooms and M street, we began to envision a space that not only nurtured plants, but also our spirits. Excitement for the project spread through the larger St. Francis community and we received not only words of encouragement, but also offers to donate time and resources. Through a gift from the class of 2010, a large cast iron fountain will serve as a focal point in the center of the garden. A generous donation from the St. Francis Filipino Families and Friends provided 14 sculpted reliefs from Italy that depict the Way of the Cross. These stations will be integrated into the garden in a way that will encourage students to read and reflect on the last days of Christ’s life. From Skip Mezger, a UC Davis Senior Landscape Architect and father of alumnae Kelly ‘03, Kristen ‘06, and Tracy ‘10, we received not only ten trellised olive trees, but a wealth of expert advice on plant selection, design, and how to go about planning such a large garden. Transforming our vision into a reality has certainly been a community endeavor. Once the garden is completed, it will take an even larger community effort – from students and faculty to administrators and parents – to make Canticle Garden flourish.

It is my hope that the garden provides students – and all of us in the St. Francis community – with the excitement, exploration, and reflection of discovery. Ultimately, our goal is to create a space on campus where students can get a sense of ownership and accomplishment through their involvement in all aspects of the garden. They will prepare beds, plant seeds and seedlings, tend crops, turn compost, harvest produce and, of course, enjoy the “fruits” of their labor. Over time, Canticle Garden has the potential to foster a deeper appreciation of how the natural world sustains us and promotes the environmental and social well-being of our community. Being connected to the rhythms of tending the earth is an essential part of being human, reminding us of the constant individual and institutional renewal to which we are called.

Adan Romo teaches sculpture and is chairperson of the Visual Arts Department at St. Francis High School. He created the statues of St. Francis of Assisi and St. Clare that adorn the St. Francis campus.