Whole Story

The Official Whole Foods Market® Blog

Growing a Healthy Generation

By Nona Evans, October 12, 2011  |  Meet the Blogger  |  More Posts by Nona Evans

I recently had the good fortune to meet a man named Mud. It was during a trip to Southern California to speak at the Santa Monica Good Food Festival about the importance of quality school food. Mud has a mantra that I am blatantly adopting: Kids who grow good food, eat good food. Kids who cook good food, eat good food. If you’re a fan of Jamie Oliver’s School Food Revolution, you might recognize the name: Mud Baron. He’s the former Green Policy Director for the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD). Like his name implies, Mud is the epitome of garden passion. A flower farmer by trade, he can usually be found with pruners strapped to his hip and a seed plug tray under his arm.  Mud knows both teachers and kids by name. After meeting Mud and a couple of the teachers who are incorporating their school gardens into their schools’ culinary programs, I was invited to take a closer look at the work they were doing. Remarkably, LAUSD has more than 500 schools with gardens and it is possible for a student to go from kindergarten to graduation with access to a school garden at every campus. I was lucky enough to spend half of a Saturday with Mud — now a volunteer for the district — at The Christensen Math, Science & Technology Center. The name is a little deceiving. This four-acre plot, located in San Pedro amidst a neighborhood and the harbor, is a teaching center for the district. It hosts more than 50,000 students on field trips each year. On a typical visit, students split into groups. While one group learns about the important role that animals play in agriculture, the other group tours, and even works, in the gardens. The center is home to a couple of dozen chickens, a handful of ducks, a big turkey, Ophelia the 400 lb pig and Peaches the pony — most rescued from city life after their owners determined they were unable to care for them. In the gardens, students learn the difference between the rows that are planted for human consumption — herbs, vegetables and fruit trees — and rows planted as food for pollinators. Mud has a soft spot for dahlias. He says the flowers serve two purposes. One, they feed the bees, dragonflies and hummingbirds that are vital to the garden’s success and, two, they open doors...when garden supporters take beautiful bouquets to council members, teachers and community advocates. Beyond inspiring students with visits to the model gardens, the center also supplies schools with seeds and starter plants for their own gardens. Mud is unapologetic that his support and that of the center reach beyond LAUSD. The center is known for providing seeds and starters to other surrounding school districts and even community gardens. “What sucked me into this work was when I realized that the first teacher I helped wasn’t alone,” Mud revealed to me on my visit. “There were so many more teachers that needed encouragement, tools and a little expertise to be successful with their gardens.” It’s this spirit of collaboration and dedication to helping children understand where their food comes from, that energizes Whole Kids Foundation’s support for school gardens. Remember:

Kids who grow good food, eat good food. Kids who cook good food, eat good food.

If you want to keep up with Mud, you can follow him on twitter @cocoxochitl. You can get more information on how to help school gardens grow and how to grow a garden for your school on the Whole Kids Foundation® website. And follow Whole Kids Foundation on Twitter and Facebook. Did you garden when you were a kid? Tell me about your experience.




Kami M says ...
I think this is an awesome program! I grew up growing a vegetable garden and I have only fond memories of planting and eating corn, onions, tomatoes, beets, radishes, etc. I have a 4 year old son who is a very picky eater, but is learning to love to grow a garden! He doesn't eat any of it, but I know as he grows, he will! I am so impressed w/ this program and am looking for a school to place my son next year that has its own garden! Thanks for the encouragement
10/12/2011 9:54:44 PM CDT
B Nolan says ...
I was fortunate enough to have parents who saw the value in having a vegetable garden and we all took part in tending it growing up. Having the garden sparked my interest in foods and resulted in my pursuing a culinary arts degree. To supplement that I took master gardener courses through an extension service, and it was a perfect match. The work that Mud and Whole Foods / Whole Kids Foundation is doing with our youth is vital to the future of our children. We CAN change the way kids look at food, and the combination of school gardens, salad bars, and nutrition/culinary education for teachers is a fantastic approach. Keep up the good work, it energizes me when I see what is possible!
10/15/2011 9:51:06 AM CDT
Stacey Zavala says ...
We visit Mud at the Science Center on a regular basis. Mud is the best gift LAUSD teachers & school gardens have! Just show up for a 'plug mob' and you'll see why! I can say that as a teacher for LAUSD & a school gardener! We love Mud, our garden & the Science Center!
10/15/2011 12:55:30 PM CDT
Gardening Angel says ...
Mud Baron is a relentless, tireless, proponent for school gardens. As he always says, "No school should ever have to pay for plants or seeds." He has single-handedly done more for all Los Angeles school and community gardens in the last year than most people could accomplish in a lifetime. You can catch him most days at The San Pedro Science Center, usually walking around with a fistful of Dahlias.
10/15/2011 1:06:04 PM CDT
Yvonne Savio says ...
Thanks for your wonderful story! Mud is indeed a whirlwind of positive energy helping teachers teach and kids learn all academic subjects in the garden! He's one of our University of California Cooperative Extension Los Angeles County Common Ground Garden Program Master Gardener Volunteers. Our website -- celosangeles.ucdavis.edu/Common_Ground_Garden_Program -- provides lots of gardening information for Southern California, and especially our School Garden Start-Up Guide which pairs with our Community Garden Start-Up Guide to help everyone get growing. Our Grow LA Victory Garden Initiative class sessions are offered in some 20 locations each Spring and Fall.
01/04/2012 2:12:11 PM CST
Joni Ito says ...
Excellent Mud! Power to the Flower Child!!!
01/07/2012 4:12:11 PM CST
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Erin L says ...
This is awesome! The science teacher in my building is working to create a school garden as we speak. Love the story!
04/09/2013 11:13:50 AM CDT
M Deppe says ...
When our nation at large is almost completely disconnected from the sources of its food, it is AWESOME to see that the next generation is getting right back to the dirt! God bless Mud and the good work that he and the teachers he helps are doing, because there are few things better than seeing a child grow a great relationship with local, vital whole food!
04/12/2013 8:30:53 PM CDT
Jennifer says ...
This is a great inspiring article! The church just built my parents a garden in a platform, so my wheelchair bound father can help pull weeds, water, etc. I think ill start one soon too! Thanks, Vegetarian Jen
04/20/2013 10:15:41 AM CDT