Berkeley High School is going the edible schoolyard route and is planning to build a vegetable garden.

BHS Science Teacher Glenn Wolkenfeld, with support from the Berkeley Public Education Foundation and BUSD’s Gardening Program, is about to lead his AP Environmental Science class to build a number of raised beds at the school.

The team is looking for donations of lumber and tools to help move the project forward. The goal is to start work on February 2. Specifically the students are looking for:

  • Cut plywood, 2 feet by 4 feet, any thickness (but thinner is better).
  • Redwood or cedar two by fours or two by sixes, any length. Used lumber is preferable. If new, the lumber has to be FSC (sustainable forestry certified).
  • Hand saws.
  • Bags of potting soil or garden soil.
  • Phillips head screwdrivers.
  • Drills, especially an old fashioned hand-drill.

If you can help by donating any of the above, or if you have carpentry/building skills and can assist with some of the preparatory work, contact Glenn Wolkenfeld by email at


Tracey Taylor

Tracey Taylor is co-founder of Berkeleyside and co-founder and editorial director of Cityside, the nonprofit parent to Berkeleyside and The Oaklandside. Before launching Berkeleyside, Tracey wrote for...

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  1. Alicia – please! The article bugged me. Your posting of the article struck me as valuable. Please keep it up! My experience in some really successful blogs is that 90% of the win happens when people don’t take stuff too personally, do keep coming back with more stuff, and do have a low threshold for letting a current thread drop and moving on to the next thing. There are exceptions to those rules of thumb but, basically, I’m happy you posted what you did. As the 2020 facilitator put it the other day: “This is a safe space.” (Well, obviously I don’t speak for the owner/operators but I don’t think I’m putting words in their mouth.)

  2. Hmmm, I simply posted a link to an interesting article that dared to question something that is apparently orthodox in Berkeley. I just thought it was interesting especially in light of the move to cut science labs in periods 0 and 7 at Berkeley high.

    @Thomas, I can’t even bear to read your entire diatribe–my umbrella doesn’t handle stones very well. Please have a good day even though this article seems to have disturbed you deeply.

  3. Alicia, that is hardly a skewering. Rather, it is an attack on straw-man arguments that the author puts into the mouths of proponents.

    For example, the author says that proponents believe: “[…] millions of poor kids have so little access to fruits and vegetables that if they don’t spend their school day growing some on campus, they will never get any at all.” Nonsense. Closer to the actual party line would be that millions of kids (and a disproportionate number of them poor) don’t upon entry have a diet with lots of fruits and vegetables, and don’t much think about much less care about the quality of life aspects of food. These programs aim to change that and there seems to be a truck-load of at least strong anecdotal evidence that the programs often work. He goes on to argue that there’s a Ralph’s grocery in Compten where plenty of good food can be bought, on the cheap even. Yes there is! Now let’s work on getting more kids into a situation where they and their families are actually using it to better advantage.

    The author also makes the claim that these programs seem on their face unlikely to help with basics like literacy and science – yet, that seems an implausible claim. What better way to learn the lifecycle of a plant or the difference between a tuber and a fruit than by observation. What better way to stimulate a reading and writing curriculum than by having a ready-made set of garden topics about which students are already engaged? Yes, yes, I fully agree with him that the better we measure the impact of these programs the better we’ll be able to refine them. That’s part of a general problem of not measuring teacher or curriculum performance all that well across the board. But he’s foolish to so glibly single out this one, highly plausible and anecdotally promising set of programs.

    The author intimates that it is classist, racist even to prepare kids to be, as he puts it, “sharecroppers”. I’m sorry, but he’s an ignorant putz on at least two levels. First, my grandparents were well versed in what these kids are learning and benefited throughout their lives from that knowledge – my peers, not so much. Not a one of my grandparents was a sharecropper. Second, as even Toyota is telling Wall St. analysts, we fully expect for oil to become quite dear not much later than 2020. If you think that through, it means that we are either going to quickly become a much more agrarian society, with perhaps even a majority of the population involved hands-on in food production – or else we will perish as a society. Frankly, farm work looks like a good career track for many of the rich and bright privileged kids, too.

    The author calls upon George Orwell’s subjective account of the food habits that arise in poverty to suggest that poverty, not lack of food awareness is the problem with childhood obesity and diabetes. Has it occurred to this author – has he given a minutes thought – that this curriculum helps to teach kids to live more frugally? Or that the bad nutritional habits and poverty are not in a simple “cause and effect” relationship but, rather, are part of an overarching feedback cycle that needs to be broken?

    He offers the solution that poor people will eat better if we simply make them rich. He actually, with an apparently straight face, writes: “The solution lies in an education that will propel students into a higher economic class, where they will live better and therefore eat better.” Well, darling author, food doesn’t grow on the corporate org-chart tree. All of the Old Money and Old Power I know are quite well steeped in agrarian matters. Heck, if we turn to the Founders, Thomas Jefferson (as one example) had gardening competitions with his neighbor. And it was a heck of a lot more than just a simple “hobby” for either of them.

    The author quotes the CEO of a bunch of charter schools as saying “The only question in education reform that’s worth anything is this: What are you doing to prepare these kids for college? If I can get a kid to read Shakespeare and laugh at the right places, I can get him to college. That’s all that matters to me.” How in the world does that not strike you as thoroughly obscene? *That* sentiment, not the school garden programs, is the classist, racist, utterly useless to the point of being damaging approach to education. Shakespeare is a wonderful part of the English language cannon, certainly, but I’ll tell you this: no kid was ever rejected admission to Harvard or Yale for not knowing Shakespeare.

    My god, the article you cite just goes on like that for some time. It’s absolute classist and racist rubbish, no matter what food bank the author happens to volunteer at.

    As for college: you should realize that from a strictly financial perspective – it’s mostly a bad investment these days. Education and becoming a well-rounded person are quite valuable, of course, but those don’t require paying 10s of thousands of dollars (or being subsidized to that tune) for a piece of sheepskin. The return on investment, at today’s tuition levels, is far from competitive with other options.

  4. I recommend reading this scathing commentary (“Cultivating Failure”) cum book review of the Alice Waters biography in the Atlantic . The author skewers the gardening at school concept and it’s especially timely given the recent controversy over cutting science labs.