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Nation's First Urban Farming School Teaches Kids to Grow and Cook Their Own Food

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Students at one San Fransisco school will soon have the chance to learn about urban farming and the role it can play in the community in a unique setting. The Golden Bridges School's planned new campus will join indoor and outdoor learning spaces and will have several beneficial and environmentally friendly aspects.

Photo credit: Golden Bridges School

The property is currently an urban farm, which was started six years ago by Caitlyn Galloway, the San Fransisco Examiner reported. Galloway hoped to prove urban farms could turn a profit as well as unite a neighborhood.

And she's done just that. Her farm, Little City Gardens at 203 Cotter St., sells enough produce to cover farming costs as well as partial incomes for Galloway and another gardener. The farm sells produce to local restaurants. Students at Golden Bridges School often help out at the farm.

The school recently bought the land to build its new campus. The Golden Bridges School teaches K-2 at its current location, but hopes to expand to K-8 at the new location.

Photo credit: Golden Bridges School

The school's purchase of the land has raised multiple questions and concerns among residents in the surrounding Mission Terrace neighborhood. Increased traffic and noise from the school as well as potential increased flooding topped the list. The school and architect Stanley Saitowitz, of Natoma Architects Inc., took those concerns into consideration when designing the new campus. Systems have been designed to help with flood and sound control. The main tactic Saitowitz is using is plants: green roofs and walls.

The school's front entrance will be set back from the sidewalk to allow for a community meeting and green space. The front of the building will then slope up to resemble a hill. It will be covered in plants to continue the green space look from the street. Seventy-four percent of the property will remain open space for students to learn and play in.

Photo credit: Golden Bridges School

The school building will be two-stories consisting of multiple classroom buildings that open to both indoor and outdoor courtyards and are connected by a bridge on the second floor.

The school will also employ green roofs to absorb water, reduce energy use and act as a sound barrier between the classrooms and neighborhood. Golden Bridges School hopes to further prevent flooding by collecting stormwater onsite in basins and recycling it as irrigation for the farm.

The green rooftops will also attract pollinators useful in the agricultural process. A huge green space behind the buildings will contain an orchard, edible garden, chicken coop and outdoor kitchen. Spaces not used for farming will include a kindergarten play space, nooks for outdoor class time and a "wild" area for play, according to the school's plans.

Classroom buildings will be fitted with huge windows to allow for natural light and heat inside.

Photo credit: Golden Bridges School

The curriculum at Golden Bridges School is based on the Waldorf Education model, a progressive and holistic education system based on philosopher Rudolph Steiner's vision, Inhabitat reported. The system is rooted in a sense of connection to the land and seasons, encouraging students to learn about farming, cooking and raising their own food.

The campus will accommodate a maximum of 200 students. The school hopes to partially open on site for K-3 students as soon as September 2017, according to the school's project timeline.

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The last time San Francisco did not record a drop of rain in February was in 1864 as the Civil War raged.

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On Thursday, the U.S. Drought Monitor said nearly 60 percent of the state was abnormally dry, up from 46 percent just last week, according to The Mercury News in San Jose.

The dry winter has included areas that have seen devastating fires recently, including Sonoma, Napa, Lake and Mendocino counties. If the dry conditions continue, those areas will once again have dangerously high fire conditions, according to The Mercury News.

"Given what we've seen so far this year and the forecast for the next few weeks, I do think it's pretty likely we'll end up in some degree of drought by this summer," said Swain, as The Mercury News reported.

Another alarming sign of an impending drought is the decreased snowpack in the Sierra Nevada Mountain range. The National Weather Service posted to Twitter a side-by-side comparison of snowpack from February 2019 and from this year, illustrating the puny snowpack this year. The snow accumulated in the Sierra Nevadas provides water to roughly 30 percent of the state, according to NBC Los Angeles.

Right now, the snowpack is at 53 percent of its normal volume after two warm and dry months to start the year. It is a remarkable decline, considering that the snowpack started 2020 at 90 percent of its historical average, as The Guardian reported.

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The Guardian noted that while California's reservoirs are currently near capacity, the more immediate impact of the warm, dry winter will be how it raises the fire danger as trees and grasslands dry out.

"The plants and the forests don't benefit from the water storage reservoirs," said Swain, as The Mercury News reported. "If conditions remain very dry heading into summer, the landscape and vegetation is definitely going to feel it this year. From a wildfire perspective, the dry years do tend to be the bad fire years, especially in Northern California."

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