Upper School students try their hand at growing food

By Matthew Piechalak | mpiechalak@francisparker.org 

When Parker closed earlier this month in response to the escalating COVID-19 global pandemic, Upper School students Zach Dean and Tess Karras found themselves missing their time working in the Social Justice Garden on the Linda Vista Campus. So they set about creating their own garden in Zach’s backyard. 

We decided to start this garden as a way to give us something to do during this time at home,” says Tess, Class of 2021. “We’d seen what took place in the Social Justice Garden at School and figured we’d give it a try, especially since we figured there wasn’t much that could go wrong.”

“The Social Justice Garden is fun and relaxing,” adds Zach, Class of 2020. “So I thought, ‘why not just make my own at home’?”

Zach and Tess purchased supplies and set about building two backyard planter boxes, where they planted tomatoes, basil, and cucumbers. Additionally, in a small seed greenhouse, they have 36 sprouting plants including carrots, tomatoes, basil, sunflowers, kale, cucumbers, and beets. In separate pots, they are also growing papaya and radishes.

“I figured that because I would be spending a lot more time at home, I would need something to keep me busy during these times,” he says. 

Tess says she has never grown food, but cared for a strawberry plant when she was younger. Zach has also never grown food, but is in Phil Trotter’s Social Justice class and has learned gardening techniques. He thought it would be a “fun little challenge” while everyone is confined to their homes. 

“It’s a good hobby because it not only occupies my time, but I get to grow my own food, as well, which is really rewarding.” 

“What I personally enjoy about it is the fact that it is something new to spend my time doing where I get to completely experience and observe the results,” says Tess. “I’ve never gotten to do something like this from start-to-finish, and I know that when the plants are done, it will be such a rewarding feeling.” 

“I am proud of Zach and Tess because they are taking the concept of See, Judge, Act that we discussed in class and producing a significant action item that promotes a healthy lifestyle and a healthy planet,” Phil says. “There is always a group of students who gravitate toward the garden project, but the benefits of the garden are shared among all the students in the class.” 

The garden, located at the south point of the Linda Vista Campus, has been a student-run community space for 12 years. The students have designed and implemented every element of the garden, including the murals, garden boxes, outdoor classroom, plants, and benched.