Palisades students learn a variety of lessons on Earth Day

by: Barb Randall, 
During the Earth Day assembly at Palisades Elementary School, Averi Basso, left, Jordan Nelson and Terran Walker choose between tree seedlings, vegetable seeds or starts to plant at home.

Despite the unseasonably chilly weather last week about 180 fewer car trips were made to Palisades Elementary School as 211 of the school's 317 students biked, bused or walked to school in observance of Earth Day. Their efforts were recognized in assemblies Monday morning, where it was announced that their efforts reduced the carbon footprint of the school by 142 kg of carbon dioxide, or 313 pounds.

On that upbeat note, Earth PALS organizers Doug Rich, Rosemary Dicandilo and Christina Hardy turned the students' attention to another issue: sustainable food. Guest speakers Laura Masterson, farm manager at Luscher Farm Community Supported Agriculture and Lake Oswego Review food journalist/culinary instructor Barb Randall planted the seeds of thought and action on the subject at the most opportune time: right before lunch.

Masterson explained that sustainable practices are those that are able to maintain without exploiting or destroying the natural resources. She explained that she utilizes many organic and sustainable methods of farming at Luscher Farm, including using an electric tractor and horses to till the fields.

'Electric tractors, like electric cars, are healthy for the planet,' she explained to the audience. 'And plowing with horses is even better. They don't need any gas - they just need grass!'

Other organic and sustainable practices in use at the farm are hand weeding, bringing in good bugs, such as ladybugs, to control bugs that could damage crops building habitats for birds, frogs and bumblebees to flourish to help keep bad bugs in check and crop rotation.

She encouraged students to eat with the seasons to enjoy a wide range of vegetables and fruits. Masterson related how CSA subscribers can enjoy fresh produce year round.

'Food just tastes better when it's freshly picked,' she said.

Randall also talked about the benefit of eating with the seasons and eating locally.

'There are many ways you can preserve the foods while they are at their peak,' she said. 'You can can foods, freeze them, pickle them or dry them. A little amount of effort in the summer time can fill your pantry and freezer with the tastes of summer all winter.'

Randall's samples of farm fresh carrots, grilled sprouted purple broccoli, smoothies made from blueberries frozen last summer, and apple butter and raspberry jam made last season were enthusiastically received by student tasters.

To encourage students to start a home garden, organizers had procured packets of vegetable seeds, tree seedlings and coupons for vegetable plants for them to take home.