The International Garden


The International Garden

Visible along the main street and on asphalt in the Ford School yard, the garden is one of the few visible changes in a neighborhood that has seen hundreds of families displaced from foreclosures, four domestic murders, a problem with drugs and gangs, and high unemployment.

On the positive side, immigrants from many countries seeking a future for their families now live next to older Highlanders. The school and the garden unify all with the themes of education, equal opportunity and peaceful co-existence.

At the garden, students plant tomatos, peppers, chard, celery, eggplant, a total of 30 vegetables and herbs. They tend and harvest the crop. Classes are held that enhance the subjects they are studying.

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Students have won 72 prizes for their vegetables at the Topsfield Fair. They learn about agriculture and how to protect their environment. They learn about healthy food and the dangers of eating junk food. One-half of the 4th graders are over-weight or obese, nearly double the national average.

Funded by YouthWorks and No. Shore WIB, older youth manage the garden and talk with children about farming and good nutrition. For three years, the garden hosted Food Corps, whose founder Greg Ellis called our garden ‘our best project.’

Students re-cycle trash and turn food scraps into compost They study how flora and fauna and the sun’s energy are connected. Soda is banned. Drinking Lynn water is encouraged. A cistern stores roof water.

A table on evolution (seen below) diagrams how we evolved from the ocean and simpler forms of life.



An aquaponics greenhouse (link) reveals how fish help plants grow without soil. Fish produce ammonia, which bacteria convert to nitrogen. Nutrients in the water enable plants to grow. The water is recirculated back to the fish.

Our growing season is five months long. What do we do for seven months for fresh, locally-grown food? Canning, and drying herbs is one way. Aquaponics is the other.   Our food can be grown inside buildings, producing jobs and good health.

What is international about the garden? First of all, we define the crops by their origin. (link) Very little that we eat is native to the USA. Secondly, people from many countries work there:

  • Mohammed Al-Hamdany, a world-renowned researcher from Iraq, helped us with plant pathology;
  • The Ouk family plants Asian long beans, bok choi, ginseng, squash;
  • Viviane Kamba from the Congo introduced us to amaranth, a popular grain       in West Africa;
  • A Nigerian teacher made soup from “African spinach” that planted itself;
  • Hispanic women found wild ‘verdolaga’ or purslane and made soup. They also plant ‘maize,’ or corn.