If you have a potato, some soil, and a big plastic tub, you too can be an urban farmer. So goes the thinking behind Spuds in Tubs, a program with a completely catchy title and a very simple mission: to get children thinking about how to grow food. In one of the classrooms where I volunteer, big blue bins line the windows, adorned with the names like “Potato Crusaders.”
Spuds in tubs is beautiful in its simplicity. It is a project of BC Agriculture in the Classroom, although I am sure that echoes of this sustainable urban gardening project can be found elsewhere around the world. Teachers receive portable tubs, compost, and Warba potatoes, an early variety of potato that is ready before the children are finished school. Teachers use the plants to teach about sustainable food, but they can also use the potato plants across the curriculum. Observations can become Language Arts studies. The growth and change of a plant can work into the science curriculum. Plant growth can become a math lesson, and potatoes are certainly a lesson in multiplication.
Why Spuds in Tubs? It’s a small and sustainable program that is easy for teachers to implement. Teachers apply over the winter, receive kits in February, and the class has new potatoes by the middle of June. The program is much different from creating a large school garden, an outcome that is delightful but can involve a heavy dose of school politics. Creating an outdoor community garden on school grounds can seem like a big project, especially for overworked teachers. There is also the question of summer maintenance. Unfortunately, vegetable gardens do not really follow the school season, and planting in the spring and harvesting in the fall still leaves a long, dry summer for teachers and parents to coordinate. Urban agriculture is a healthy and beautiful thing, but it does require coordination to be sustainable.
This year, over one hundred and fifty schools are participating in the Spuds in Tubs project. Each classroom will receive five tubs with soil and with potatoes to plant. That’s nearly four thousand seed potatoes going into the ground, with a result of thousands upon thousands of little new potatoes for the children to eat. The Spuds in Tubs program is an urban agriculture program that works: it’s small, it’s simple, and it’s sustainable.
Have you been involved in classroom urban gardening? What are your simple strategies for success?