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This piece made me smile :-) and shameful at the same time. I'm from the Philippines, and I didn't even know that school farms existed. And I don't think a lot more other people do! V. de Castro Elementary School should be made a model for both urban and provincial schools all over the Philippines - amazing kick off exercise for children towards sustainable living consciousness. No one should get hungry nor beg for food anymore.


Fabulous story. What a great foundation to give these children.

Marc Calo Medina

i KNEW i should've gone to sta rita with you guys....


What a great post, what they are doing there is simply fantastic.

I remember we grew green beans on a little plot outside our classroom when I was in elementary school (in Taipei). But our involvement and the scale was nowhere near what you described here.

lara dunston

Great story and wonderful pics! I'm constantly surprised when I read about school gardening projects (around the world) as if they're something new, because I remember school gardens growing up in suburban Sydney in the 1970s, and I remember when I worked in politics in the mid-late-80s for a while, visiting an agricultural high school with a breathtaking garden and learning that school had been running since the late 1800s. Having said that, it's fantastic to see so many schools embracing gardening now. Just loved this story!


For grade school (Grade 1 to 6) I studied in a barangay elementary school in Iloilo, where my mother also taught.
That was in the 60's. As far as I know, students had always tended to their vegetable gardens, many years before me and even up to now. I grew mainly tomatoes and eggplants.
The same thing can hardly be done in an urban school. However, there is a private high-end (grade school and high school) school in Manila that provides students with skills and experience like this. For their high school biology, they even have a sterile room, where they have a teacher teaching them how orchids are propagated by seeds, in a flask.


What a beautiful garden and inspiration for the rest of us! I wish mine was half as productive... - Sasha

Eleanor Hoh

Good to see these kids helping out in their veg garden. As you said, exercise is better than sitting whole time and best, they get to take home and eat them with their families. Robyn, I have same problem, got hundreds of photos and can't blog fast enough. Don't you wish we had elves?


Saw a segment of Alice Waters about school garden on TV and my reaction was, "Alice, you're 25 years lately, gardening was part if our curriculum."

We were given each a plot, plowed and toiled it, was taught crop rotation, which plant should be grown first, what last - for an entire school year.

Thanks for sharing this story. Brought back memories of having to figure out how to come up with recipes for peanuts, with supply enough to last an entire month!

Green Mango

I remember being six years old and a grade 1 student at a public elementary school in Laguna. We grew pechay and other veggies. So did other students in other schools. No big deal to us and lots of fun. And I still plant tomatoes, corn, okra, moringa, eggplant and chili in a vacant lot in our suburban subdivision.


We had a small plot of 丝瓜 (Luffa?) and 四季豆 green beans in my junior high school (Taipei). It wasn’t part of the curriculum or anything, it was managed by the caretaker and pupils were welcome to help and experience growing their own vegetables. I never took these vegetables home , but remember some classmates were saying the caretaker cooked some Si Gua and Pai Gu 排骨 soup and it was delicious. I wouldn’t want to say what was used for fertilizer there 35 years ago (!) Though I wouldn’t mind knowing what is used here too, are they organic?

I think although these may all be called ‘school farms’, be it gardening projects, classrooms or programs -- there are different values. Some maybe more about developing farming skills, some about healthy food concept and approach. I do think what you (and Marco) described here in the Philippines is truly special – the gardening is built into their life. There is a lot about understanding and appreciation of the land and farmers, and about discipline too.

There are several ‘school farms’ schemes in Taiwan for all level of education in the recent years, but a particular one in Taichung is interesting. A teacher started a Happy Farm club (idea originated from Happy Farm the popular Facebook game). They made use of a vacant plot adjacent to school and teach club members to grow a range of organic crops. Apart from its educational purposes, the teacher said is also about productivity – how to turn nothing into something and make the profit accessible not only to individuals but to community. They bring vegetables home for family but also design posters and sell to students and staff, all monies go to charities or good causes of their choice.


What an incredible place. It's so amazing to see an educational system where an understanding of food production is as important as all your other lessons. Maybe I should send in an enrollment form? Though I guess I wouldn't look as cute in the uniform... -X


Just awsome Robyn! and inspirational too, kids learning the neccessity before they go on tweeting and facebook. it would be nice to see all school have this, be it urban or suburban, they'll respect food a little more than say..ewwww to spinach.


hi robyn, my family is from sta. rita--in fact, our ancestral family home is next door to the stately home of the family that donated the land for the school. i just wanted to offer a minor correction: the school is named after victoriano de castro, not victoriana de costa.


These types of gardens used to be common in Israel but now with lack of funding and perhaps laziness, most schools do not have them. Amazing that the kids have such bright white shirts after working in the garden- my kids would be covered in mud ;-)


Love this. Really wish I had grown up with something like this at school. Feel like I'm constantly fighting to catch up re: learning about food now


Sonia - not just all over the Philippines, but around the world!

Marc - yep, you got that right. ;-)

Albert, Lara, ntgerald, Katy, Green Mango, Marco -- thanks for sharing those memories of your own school gardens!

Eleanor - I would settle for an assistant. ;-)

Sasha - maybe you should send in an application for an internship!

Santos - didn't know that, small world. And thanks for the heads up on my mistake, changes made.

Sarah - that's too bad, what a shame to let that part of the curriculum fall by the wayside.
It was first thing in the morning ... maybe by the end of the day they're looking a bit more bedraggled. ;-)

Wen - believe me, I know exactly how you feel.


Amazing post! Thanks for the heads up. Also visited a farm in Lubao, Pampanga recently. Was very happy to see it had a daycare center and a small school on the property, but to have an actual elementary school do farming is just amazing!

Nikki Rose

Great article. I've been looking for stories like this. Here in Crete, Greece many people still grow their own food and raise a few chickens. They usually have to. It's not some sort of illegal or rebellious "movement." And a functional home garden with fruit trees and grape vines is gorgeous landscaping! All the best.

Nikki Rose
Crete's Culinary Sanctuaries


Like Sonia I am also a bit shamed that I didn't know these school farms existed here! This one looks fantastic! So happy you wrote about it :) I grew up in Manila so there was no farming for me though I really wish we had something like this. I think our city kids need to be exposed to more of these skills!

Michael Ocampo

I'm a graduate of V. de Castro (Batch 1996). I used to be one of those kids in charge of watering and weeding the vegetable plots.

But I guess farming isn't really for me. My father would be surprised if I succeed in growing a single lettuce, even a partially edible one.

It was fun growing up in that school, though I remember wishing that it had a decent library. At any rate, it was a great experience and the most of the teachers were great.

Great article.

Fatty Liver Treatment

I think this is a great idea. The US could learn a lot from the Phillipines in this regard. Sure, we used to raise a plant or two in elementary school, but actually raising a garden would have been a much more memorable experience.

With all the waste going on these days, we need to try to put the same respect for the land into our kids as well.


kidney problem

Amazing gardens...what beautiful photos. Awesome Robyn, thanks for the share!


In the '70's, one of my grandaunts was a Math teacher and taught in the 'Seed House' at a school in Bataan (next province to Pampanga).

When she retired, another grandaunt took the post. I guess it runs in our family.

Thank you for writing about this.


Thanks for your comments everyone.

dailypalette -- how cool! It's a small world.
There's so much more to the Philippines' culinary scene than the world gives it credit for.

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