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by intern Lila Wilmerding

On March 17, the first vertical school garden in San Francisco was unveiled at Sanchez Elementary School in the Mission District. This vertical garden joins Sanchez’s existing traditional garden, which teachers have been integrating into their classes for the past couple of years.

The garden, originally cared for by a retired teacher, found support from Slow Food San Francisco and was visited by Slow Food founder Carlo Petrini in 2007. The program has developed over time, and this year Sanchez Elementary was able to hire a garden manager who comes in biweekly to help the students plant, maintain, and harvest. The school also recently finished adding a kitchen for students to do tastings.

According to Carmen Tedesco of Slow Food San Francisco, the initiatives at Sanchez would not be possible without the enthusiasm of the school’s principal, Dr. Raymond Isola, and the rest of the administration. All are very excited to have the new vertical garden in place and hope that it will be the first of many in the area.

The soil-less vertical garden, which was installed by Inka Biospheric Systems and can be mounted on a chain-link fence, is an option for campuses where space is an issue. As well, solar panels and a wind turbine will power the circulation of nutrient-enhanced water, adding another level of sustainability to this project. Students at Sanchez Elementary will monitor the garden’s energy use, water nutrient levels, and produce outputs over the course of the spring and compile the results in May. The way that the Sanchez Elementary School administration has embraced the garden project makes the school a model on which Slow Food San Francisco can base future Slow Food in Schools projects.