Over 200 people crowded the Summerlin Library on March 2 as students from schools across the Las Vegas Valley gathered for a farmers market where they sold harvested fruits and vegetables from their school gardens.
“This was our first multi-school farmers market off-campus,” said Vanessa Portillo, executive director of the Garden Farms Foundation and head of the event. “We really want these students to see that they’re part of a larger movement. A lot of schools are doing this.”
The Garden Farms Foundation is the nonprofit arm of Garden Farms, an organization that builds gardens at residential and commercial lots and then sends farmers to teach people how to grow food in their own space.
The Garden Farms Foundation serves 48 active school garden programs in the area, Portillo said. Many of the students from those schools were at the event. The foundation teamed with the library to present the three-hour market, which featured seven schools, about 50 students and more than 125 pounds of fresh produce, Portillo said.
“A lot of these gardens we have are in low-income areas — food deserts,” Portillo said. “Our ultimate goal is food security. It’s one thing to give people free food and another thing to teach people how to grow that food. We do a lot of programming to make it fun to be in the garden and kind of tie growing food into other things as well.”
Payton Gallow, a fourth-grader at McCaw STEAM Academy, said school gardens teach students healthy eating habits early on.
“It’s teaching us to eat our vegetables,” Payton said. “Our gardener will come in and we’ll try things like the cilantro or the rosemary. It will help us later in our lives. It’s kind of fun going out there and seeing what new things we’re growing in our garden.”
Payton and Camila Godinez, also a fourth-grader at McCaw, won the Cabbage Cup, which followed a cabbage-weighing contest.
“This helps us learn to care for nature and how to plant vegetables and any plants we want,” Camila said.
Portillo said she hopes to have more off-campus markets.
“We like to have one farmers market at least once every season for each program,” Portillo said. “We go to the Market in the Alley every month and we have a farmers market there. Each time we highlight a different school or garden program, but we definitely hope to do this again.”