Students grow organic veggies and fruits in kitchen gardens, add value to mid-day meals
A chorus of children repeating lessons after their teacher, rows of classrooms full of exuberant energy of young minds maintaining the critical balance between academics and playtime with innocent zest conjure up an apt image of bustling Isha Vidhya schools dotting the countryside. This picture is, however, quite incomplete without the predominant colour green of organic kitchen gardens - a highlight of these campuses.
The warm orange hue of the school buildings that house the exuberance of boundless energy of young students and their teachers present a rather apt backdrop to the serene, lush green plots of kitchen gardens. At these in-campus kitchen gardens students learn valuable lessons in growing organic vegetables and fruits which help boost nutrition in their mid-day meals.
After being launched in 2011, the organic kitchen gardens today have become an inseparable part of the schools’ daily activities and Isha Vidhya students have evolved as expert advocates of organic food cultivation.
Success of this project is there for all to see as these green, organic kitchen gardens are now flourishing under the tender care of the students in Isha Vidhya school campuses across the region.
For instance, the Isha Vidhya Vanavasi students recently harvested 145 kg of organic papaya from just 3 trees. They have been using Jeevamritham (an organic manure prepared by processing cow dung, country sugar, sprouts and Gomutra). The trees are irrigated with recycled water from within the campus. The freshly-harvested fruits and vegetables are used in the mid-day meals, usually on the same day.
Caring for kitchen gardens which produce organic vegetables and fruits for mid-day meals has become a rage among the pupils - students of Coimbatore Isha Vidhya school recently harvested 65 kg of bottle gourd at their kitchen garden while their counterparts in Mettur Isha Vidhya Matric School produced a rich harvest of 145 kg of papaya. At the Sandengoundenpalayam Isha Vidhya Matric School the students produced 20 kg of Dandang lettuce.
Sridevi, a teacher of Erode Isha Vidhya said: “The food which we consume is usually full of pesticides which decreases the immunity and memory power of our children. In Isha Vidhya schools, we grow organic kitchen garden which is better for environment and bio-diversity. The kitchen gardens are maintained by our students who preserve the soil by using bio-fertilizers and manure. They grow turkey berry, radish, papaya along with other vegetables and fruits. They also learn about plant rotation to preserve soil quality to increase the yield.”
One of the student enthusiasts of organic farming, Sandhya from Erode Isha Vidhya said: “Last month we harvested radish in our kitchen garden. It was quite an enjoyable experience for us to work in the kitchen garden and harvest the vegetable. By growing organic vegetables we are also eating healthy food.”
Nagajothi from Tuticorin Isha Vidhya added: “Students of standards VII and VIII maintain the organic kitchen garden in our school. We had brought seeds from our homes, planted and watered them daily. We cultivated tomato, cluster bean and snake gourd in our kitchen garden. Some students have also set up kitchen gardens at home.”
Naveena A, a standard IX student of Tuticorin Isha Vidhya, has not only set up a kitchen garden at home, she is also coaching her neighbours to grow their own organic vegetables at home. M Selvi Stella, a standard IX student of Isha Vidhya Matric Higher Secondary School Kootampuli said: “We grow lady’s fingers, drumsticks, pumpkins, tomatoes and a host of other vegetables at our in-campus kitchen garden. We maintain the kitchen garden with great care as it gives us fresh, nutritional and organic food for lunch every day.”
This involvement with kitchen garden has helped students imbibe the benefits of organic food too. Abhinaya, a teacher at Erode Isha Vidhya said: “The kitchen garden in our school enhances the students’ knowledge about nutritional content of the vegetables and teaches them about the harmful effect of junk food. The kitchen gardens are good for learning as they provide a very practical form of education.”