A Happy Journey

johnson salad harvest best

We‘re coming to the end of the school year full of joy and accomplishment! We released the butterflies we raised ourselves into the wild, shouting “Have a happy journey!” as they flew up into the sky. The past few weeks we’ve had quite a happy journey ourselves. We planted over 40 trees (generously donated by Forest Releaf and the Missouri Department of Conservation) to create a beautiful nature trail next to the Clay Elementary Garden.  We hosted almost 100 students from Avery Elementary at Clay’s garden for a field day.  And at last, today, we were able to harvest and eat the fruits of our labor: a delicious salad.  Our salad started off a few months ago looking like this:


Kennington Planting A Salad After many weeks of watering and impatient waiting, they exploded into giant lettuce plants the size of elephant ears. We had an exuberant harvest.

Dunlap Salad Harvest 4

Everyone ran to the garden and ripped three leaves off the lettuce plants with names like Red Freckled, Pak Choi, Matador, Butter Crunch, Rouge d’Hiver.  We washed them, getting completely soaked ourselves in the process, and squeezed lemons over them, yelling about how the lemon juice stung our fingers. I sent the kindergarteners back to the garden to pick the purple chive flowers, and I added olive oil and salt to the salad. And then:

Some of us asked for seconds, and some of us spit it out and made gagging sounds, but the important part is that we all tried it! “If you don’t try,” their kindergarten teacher said, “how will you ever know if something is good?” A lesson for all of us.

johnson salad harvest 2
This was my last class of the season. Our sweet potatoes are in the ground, the benchmark of summertime in the school garden. “These won’t be ready to eat until you’re FIRST GRADERS,” I told my kindergarten class. My students and my sweet potatoes are both in the process of transformation.  As they walked back inside, I waved after them, wishing them a happy journey just like the butterflies. When I see them again, they will be different.

Carolyn Cosgrove Payne, Youth Educator