Learning Garden hosts first Harvest Festival

See volunteers, teaching staff, farmers and guests enjoying a truly international afternoon at this delightful event in SE Portland …

The cofounders of the Learning Garden on SE 60th Avenue, Dr. Pramod Parajuli, standing with Dilafruz Williams and Lane Middle School Principal Karl Logan, welcomed all to their first International Harvest Festival.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
As one walked through the Learning Garden’s gate on SE 60th Avenue, just across from Lane Middle School, one could see the canopy tent set up in the clearing on the sunny afternoon a couple of weeks ago.

But the sense that was most delighted was the sense of smell – savoring the pungent, tangy and earthy scents given off by more than a dozen dishes being prepared as the first International Garden Festival got underway.

As we walked up to the canopy, Portland Public Schools board member, and co-founder of the Learning Garden, Dilafruz Williams was welcoming the nearly 225 guests to the event.

These young gals carved pumpkins grown in the Learning Garden.

“The kids are responding to the garden,” proclaimed Dilafruz. “Having kids learning here helps them become engaged in learning about their bodies, health, science, and math. It is that kind of transformation that is important. We have many supporters here, including the Parks Bureau. I thank them all.”

Turning to the man on her right, Portland State University professor, Dr. Pramod Parajuli, Dilafruz lauded her friend – the co-founder of the Learning Garden:

“I don’t want to leave out Pramod Parajuli. He’s a visionary person; an amazing intellectual who is able to cross disciplines, borders, boundaries, countries – coming from a little Himalayan village in Nepal where there was no electricity. He remembers his roots. At the same time, he’s able to embrace this culture. He brings everyone together.”

Selena Nita learned the difference between domesticated and wild rabbits from Rabbit Advocate volunteer, and elementary school teacher, Karen Corsini.

Feasting and fun in the sun
After the brief greeting, guests started lining up and were served some of the dozen international dishes and beverages being offered.

Kids carved pumpkins grown in the garden, played on hay bales, and learned about bunnies from Rabbit Advocate associates.

Serving up some of the one dozen varieties of international foods were volunteers Maria Spaccarelli, Karen Wolfgang, and Heidi Mann.

About 225 people came by to socialize, enjoy the garden and foods prepared from vegetables grown there.

Dilafruz looked pleased with the event. “This particular event has brought together our entire community of SE Portland. Some are involved with the project; others are here because they care deeply about the formation of community,” she told us.

“Today, we’re here celebrating the harvest with some of our international farmers who have worked this land,” she added, smiling broadly. “It is a wonderful day to come together, hang out, and enjoy the fruits of the labor of all these months of work.”

Portland Public Schools Board member Dilafruz Williams introduced the new PPS Superintendent, Carole Smith, to their garden festival.

New school superintendent approves
With Dilafruz was Portland Public School’s Carole Smith – in her fourth week of being the District’s Superintendent.

“This is fabulous,” commented Smith approvingly. “This garden – the whole program – is a wonderful representation of well-working partnerships. It is fun to be here and watch the garden program grow. I’m really touched by experiencing this high-quality, learning environment.”

© 2007 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

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