To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow – Audrey Hepburn
There can be few more relaxing moments than spending time in a garden, time begins to slow, the sights and sounds delight and before long the cares of the world disappear…
The gardening experience at Florida Prep is not yet quite so relaxing, but we are working on the framework!
Located within our campus footprint, the Florida Prep garden is a labor of love for Culinary Director, Chef Eric Schappert. Not only is he responsible for overseeing the installation of equipment, care and ongoing maintenance of the garden, but he has also made it a part of his culinary class, espousing a ‘farm to table’ philosophy, and investing hours of his own time into the project.
Although still in the development stages the garden has become a popular location on campus as students visit daily to check on the progress of their projects. Thanks to the sub-tropical weather conditions here in Central Florida, an accelerate growth process ensures they must wait but a short time to observe the emergence of seedlings and the maturity to full grown, fruit and vegetable producing plants.
Chef Eric makes his planting choices based upon several criteria; visual impact, taste, familiarity (or not) and the growing/harvest season.
“It’s my goal to eventually have the majority of the produce served in the dining hall come from the garden”, he says, “Given the limited real-estate we have available for growing I also want students to have the experience of growing new and interesting produce, that not only tastes good, but introduces a new dimension to their plates.
“That concept is made all the easier when students have a buy-in to the process and through my class, I’m taking them from the very beginning --- the planting, through to preparing it themselves for consumption.
“It’s been amazingly successful and the feedback from parents has indicated we are on the right track; students have even planted their own gardens at home!
The garden has also raised Florida Prep’s profile within the local community, and it’s now common to see members of the local gardening community drop by to deliver plant cuttings, equipment, and compost. “They are embracing the concept and are captivated by the work they see going on here”. Says Schappert “I cannot tell you how many people have stopped by, asked what we are doing and then come back with a gift for us. Kids just don’t do this nowadays is a constant refrain”.
Gardening throughout a Florida summer is never easy and much of the ongoing work is currently taking place in the early morning hours when cooler temperatures prevail. New additions planned by Schappert include covered awnings, walkways and the installation of a new greenhouse.
A smiling Schappert says “Gardening is my passion, and to have the opportunity to share the development of the garden with my students and to see their enthusiasm for the project grow each day has been one of the most satisfying parts of my career to date and the love from the community --- priceless!”
- high school