About the Le Pera Learning Garden
The Learning Garden started around 2008. Lyle Browning from U of A and a previous principal, Dan Wolfe, applied for a grant from PG&E. At first it was just a vegetable garden and we tried three different places on campus before we found a piece of land that did not have too much salt in the ground, where we could actually grow food.
Around 2012, we bought some seedlings down in Yuma and started a grove of fruit trees. The lemons are prolific, but we also have smaller harvests of oranges, grapefruit, and pomegranates in the winter, and then apples, peaches, and figs in the summer. BIA provided a way to irrigate our grove from the canal and Mr. Hermes does a great job of keeping in contact with BIA to get the grove irrigated. Mr. Nevarez goes out and mows the grove and students, Mr. Huddleson and Ms. Villafana, will go out and weed with a hula hoe, or use a weed eater, to get under the trees where the mower cannot reach
Mr. Browning retired several years ago, and now, Don Alamban who is the Federally Recognized Tribal Extension Program (FRTEP) Educator of the University of Arizona Cooperative Extension, is our program leader/master gardener. Don is a hard worker, very reliable and has a great sense of humor. Principal Wedemeyer has been a very big supporter of continuing our garden.
Our 2020-2021 garden is 27 rows. CRIT Farms comes in every fall and plows under our previous garden and forms beds for us. We then lay drip irrigation lines, put bed liners over the beds, heat soup cans and burn holes in the bed liners where the drip lines have spouts. That way sun and water get only on our plants and helps cut down the weeds.
In the fall we plant lettuce, cabbage, kale, carrots, turnips, spinach, and cilantro. In the spring we plant melons, peppers and tomatoes. Mr. McKenzie takes his 7th/8th grade classes out to the garden/grove on Fridays and they do about 90% of the work. In the fall and spring, usually 8th grade (1st and 2nd hour) works before it gets too hot; and in the winter usually 7th grade (3rd and 4th hour) works when it warms up a little. This fall 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th grades came out to help plant as well, which was great to see.
Last spring and in August, when school was cancelled, we would have “work party Wednesdays” and several staff members (especially junior high) would show up to work and do battle with the weeds. We were usually out there by 6:00am, before it got too hot.
Students plant, weed, harvest and hopefully learn a little something about how to grow food. Mr. Alamban usually gives a quick lesson on this is what we doing today and why we are doing this. Students get to sample the produce and whatever we sell. We then donate the money to PTSO.