Field Trip & Empathy Tour Connects Community

The 3rd annual School Garden Field Trip & Empathy Tour occurred in December on a spectacular Orlando day with an exciting group of twenty community folk!

The group met at the construction site of the Emeril Lagasse Foundation Kitchen House & Culinary Garden where they were greeted with hot lemon-grass tea from the garden and caught the vision of what’s to come.

First stop, was a short-distance to Morning Star Catholic School to be welcomed by Mary Kelly, Director of Community Partnerships/Special Events. This College Park gem serves students with special needs. The group toured the demonstration kitchen, heard about the exciting new Center for Transition, greeted students and teachers, then took in the beautifully situated garden.

Adam Wright of Seed2Source was on hand to walk through the garden philosophy and point out interesting elements. The group resonated with the practice of each student having their own seedling to water and care for that hung from the fence using up-cycled milk cartons—it seemed right that every child have something to call their own and be proud of. Morning Star Board Member, Sarah Stack, also pointed out that students harvest from their garden and use their kitchen daily where older students teach the younger. 

Next stop, Ocoee High School. All of a sudden, our small group grew to a large group of OCPS administration and teachers, 4Rivers Foundation team, UF/IFAS reps, and a host of high schoolers so proud of their green house, hydroponics and raised-bed gardens. We applaud the good work coming together through a combined community effort with special recognition to Peter Jordan, Ag Science Teacher, who’s purpose for his students is to “provide for the present without jeopardizing the future.”

Third stop, Dommerick Elementary. Met by teacher Linda Taconis and a super-volunteer parent. It was a joy to visit this school garden, feel the cool breeze from off the nearby pond and hear how gardening is integrated with Literacy along with their Family Garden Days. The field trip group also relaxed on campus in the shade while enjoying fresh salad and walking-tacos from the OCPS Food Truck hosted by Jamila Adams, Food & Nutritional Services.

Final stop, Healthy Eatonville Place where Deandre Kemp, Research Assistant, walked the group through the clinic that promotes healthy living to curb diabetes. The facility, which offers educational programs and counseling, mostly for free, doubles as a research center dedicated to finding better ways to prevent the disease. This healthy place serves Eatonville, an important pillar in the community, and is made possible through collaboration with Florida HospitalHealthy Central Florida and Winter Park Foundation. The group also came together in the clinic’s classroom for reflection of the day.

Adonna Andino, one of two students in the group and an 8th Grader at Orlando Junior Academy, observed and astutely summarized, “Although all the garden programs were different from my school’s, they all have the same goal of educating children about health and where food comes from.”

Evelyn Nielsen, 7th Grader at OJA also reflected in an essay where she expressed “tons” of thanks for being invited and that she “had a blast touring the schools and getting feedback from others to help her school’s garden succeed!” Her big take-away from the day—“Gardening is key to a healthy life and even bigger, a green path to a healthy future.”

Upon return to the Kitchen House & Garden the field trippers were treated to a bottle of cold-pressed juice from Grounding Roots. Thank you to Florida Hospital Community Impact and Yamile Luna’s team for sponsoring this outing that produced so many meaningful connections.

Reader, if you’ve been inspired and wish to support more of this important work, please contact Janice Banks, Executive Director at