Thursday, September 18, 2014
FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA
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Suisun Valley School preps garden with help from Genentech

20140617 suisun valley elem cleanup

Myra Rivera surveys her work she is one of the volunteers for the cleanup project. Behind her workers from Genentech helped build the greenhouse at Suisun Valley Elementary on Tuesday as part of company project to give back to the community during Gives Back Week. (Susan Hiland/Daily Republic)

By
From page A1 | June 23, 2014 |

SUISUN VALLEY — School might be out but not all the work is done – at least not yet.

Volunteers gathered Tuesday at Suisun Valley School to clean up and prepare the school’s large garden for the upcoming school year. Employees from Genentech provided a labor boost to the project.

The project saw a fair amount of front-end work and planning before actual work could begin.

“I wrote a grant through Slow Food Solano to get a greenhouse for our garden, but it has become so much more,” said Jas Bains Wright, principal at the school.

The project includes a greenhouse, which will be used for starter seed growth to help teach the children about the beginning processes of growing plants.

“We grow vegetables and fruit, basically it’s a seasonable crop. It’s how the students learn everything,” Bains Wright said. “We just don’t have time during the school year to do this kind of project. I’ve wanted to do this for a while.”

The project came about with the help of Slow Food Solano, a local chapter of the nonprofit Slow Food USA. After receiving the grant, Slow Food Solano contacted Genentech, which has a Gives Back Week program that helps with fundraisers and projects to help schools and to fight hunger.

“Genentech’s Gives Back Week is dedicated to community service,” said Roy Lester, manufacture supervisor at Genentech. “We heard about this program for the school and thought it would be a great idea. It not only helps the schools, but it helps fight hunger as well.”

Suisun Valley School submitted the idea through Genentech’s website and gained approval for an improvement project.

“Slow Food Solano was amazingly organized about this whole thing,” Bains Wright said.

Genentech sent about 25 employees to help put up the greenhouse, put up 26 garden boxes and provide general cleanup. Workers will return later to complete the job. Genentech will have different teams helping on the two cleanup days. The company also donated supplies for the greenhouse project.

“They are doing this on company time and for every hour they work, $10 is donated to a charity or organization of the team’s choice,” Bains Wright said. “Genentech also gives matching funds for the donation. This is really a win-win for everybody.”

The project fits in well with the school’s rural character.

“We are an agriculture school,” Bains Wright said. “We have classes in science but are so lucky to have an outdoor science program for the kids to learn about things like crop rotation, irrigation, planting and basically learning about what grows here in the county.”

Not only did Genentech come out as part of the program, but parents, children and teachers came to help as well. They were broken into teams covering a variety of small projects and general cleanup. This will make the area ready for the new school year, so children can begin planting when school starts.

One group built a chicken coop, which will have about six chickens in a latched, red-and-white enclosure.

“The students will learn the growth process of the chickens from egg to hatching,” Jennifer Simonson, a parent volunteer, said.

Alec Merodio and Mohummad Elgassier, both seventh-graders, created three new octagon-shaped planter boxes for the garden. The idea came about as a project during math class.

“We were done with everything, so our teacher told us to come up with something to do,” Merodio said. “We started thinking about a weird shape for a flower bed. An octagon shape just seemed really interesting.”

It took some work for them to figure out how tall it should be, how much water it would need and what plants to put in it. They drew up plans to scale and presented it to the principal, who gave her approval for construction.

“It will have some trees, bushes, flowers and vines on the side,” Elgassier said.

The improvements to the garden will be completed. Anyone is welcome to come and lend a hand on Friday.

“What they have done for us is make this agriculture program sustainable for years to come,” Bains Wright said of the partnership with the community, Genentech and Slow Food Solano.

Reach Susan Hiland at 427-6981 or shiland@dailyrepublic.net.

Susan Hiland

Susan Hiland

Susan graduated from Southern Oregon University in Ashland, Oregon with a B.A. in Communications. She has eight years experience working for newspapers in Nebraska.
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