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Fed up with cafeteria lunches, Woodcreek students grow their own food

Two sophomores start organic garden on campus
By: Sena Christian, The Press Tribune
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Derek Thomas and Bryan Seigel call a spot on their high school campus “Octo Garden.” Seven times before, student groups attempted to start a garden with no long-term success. “But eight times a charm,” Seigel said. With the sophomores’ help, “Octo” is transforming from an area covered with waist-high weeds into an organic garden. The 1,600-square-foot garden at Woodcreek High School will give students convenient access to fruits and vegetables, as an alternative to what Thomas and Seigel call unhealthy, processed foods served in the cafeteria. When the teenagers started the garden project about two months ago, they knew convincing fellow students to eat healthier wouldn’t necessarily be easy. “Our generation has grown up completely disconnected from agriculture,” Thomas said. “There’s no such thing as a Cheetos tree. I don’t want to eat something that’s been mistreated or is not in its natural form. If I can’t pronounce it, I shouldn’t be putting it in my body.” As Green Ambassadors for the City of Roseville, Thomas and Seigel watched the documentaries “Food, Inc.” and “The Future of Food,” which prompted the students’ interest in growing their own food — and encouraging their peers to do the same. “We wanted to have something we could actually do,” Seigel said. “We took the initiative. We kind of live here. It bothers me how naive some people are. We hear about these big issues we’re causing but then turn (our) cheeks.” As the teenagers talked to each other about climate change, monoculture crops, unethical treatment of animals and un-nutritious school lunches, they had an idea. “I was fed up with the food we have here,” Thomas said. “I figure I can grow my own organically and at school.” The guys, both 15, spent the last several weeks tilling the soil and prepping the land for planting. They want to grow corn, tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots, squash, strawberries, herbs and more. They’ll also plant pomegranate, orange and lemon trees. The fresh produce will supply the school’s culinary arts classes, but all students will be encouraged to pick fruits and vegetables at lunchtime. They’ve only spent $80 to pay for irrigation equipment. Nortech Gold Compost donated free compost and Whole Foods donated some plants. The pair hosts garden workdays every Saturday. They earn no volunteer hours or extra credit, only the satisfaction of making a positive contribution on campus. And they get plenty of exercise. “(We’ve) replaced working out with working in the garden,” Thomas said. “Same with tanning,” Seigel said. Sena Christian can be reached at senac@goldcountrymedia.com. ---------- Want to donate to Woodcreek High School’s garden? Call Derek Thomas at (916) 216-7382 or Bryan Seigel at (916) 580-7174.