From Backyard Lettuce to “Learning Garden” Sweet Potatoes

Joan Horwitt’s first idea was to have Ashlawn Elementary School students, teachers and neighbors grow lettuce and greens at their homes and at the school in Arlington, VA.

The former Arlington County teacher, school volunteer and Washington Post dining columnist envisioned the project as a simple and easy way to help Ashlawn students learn about growing and eating healthy foods and to develop new relationships between the school and its neighbors.

Called Lawns 2 Lettuce 4 Lunch®, the program grew more than a thousand lettuce plants for its first harvest. When combined with other locally grown ingredients, the lettuce made enough salad to feed 400 staff and students at the school’s first Lawns 2 Lettuce celebration lunch and to inspire a 2010 Washington Post piece on it, complete with pictures of Horwitt, the lettuce and the kids.

Not quite a year later, another of Horwitt’s brainchildren was born.

Her inspiration was Arlington’s last dairy farmer, the late Nelson Reeves, who for years had used his farmhouse and vegetable garden as a meeting place and classroom where he shared his knowledge and passion for the land. The Reevesland Learning Garden began with a series of eight growing beds constructed on the historic Reeves farm. “We’re trying to continue his legacy,” Horwitt explained. “He was promoting healthy eating, and was also promoting community.”

For the fourth Lawns 2 Lettuce 4 Lunch celebration in the school cafeteria November 9, 2011, a retirement home, a church and three neighborhoods adjoining the school grew enough lettuce in their gardens or yards to feed 500 people, and sweet potatoes harvested by Ashlawn students from the Reevesland Learning Garden rounded out the menu.

Watch Joan talk about it and see the Ashland kids celebrate in a video from Arlington Public Schools Snapshots.


Photo: Irene Kightley

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