Making A Case for Biodiversity

25 Oct

These have been epic times for Hello Farm Organics! We welcomed our first school group last weekend. The Junior High School students from Osaka YMCA International School spent a few days exploring the biodiversity found both on the farm and in the surrounding forest and rivers in the Keihoku, Kyoto area. There were many first time experiences for both the students and us, notably handling bugs, digging sweet potatoes, getting really muddy, night hiking, catching salamanders, and seeing and eating organic veggies. Our purpose for the farm overnight visit was to: explore the function of biodiversity on an organic farm. To do this the students did the following:

– garden tour and exploration
– digging sweet potatoes
– planting garlic
– sowing radish seeds
– night hike
– stream study
– forest hike

Through their hands-on exploration, the students discovered that biodiversity has an important role in maintaining a balance between garden helpers and garden pests. They learned that biodiversity provides and supports symbiotic relationships among plants and animals, which help food crops grow. For example; companion plants form microbial relationships in their root systems and adding rice mulch provides not only moisture retention properties, but also fungal helpers for decomposition and soil nutrition. Following are some of the students’ written reflections. Enjoy!

Yuka’s Reflection (Grade 6)
I think biodiversity is important to both people and nature because bugs that hinder farming and destroy crops and vegetables come from an imbalance of nature. If the imbalance of nature gets worse, we humans might not be able to survive because there will be a lot of pests that make it harder for farmers to grow crops, and farmers will decrease because there is an imbalance of nature.

On my night hike, I saw the larva of a firefly, even though we were walking without our flashlights on. I was very surprised because I have never seen the larva of a firefly in my whole life, and October is too cold for fireflies to thrive because fireflies are out in June, not October. When I was planting garlic seeds on the first day, I felt that living on a farm is extremely tough because we need to work even though it’s raining.

On my morning hike, I went in the river and saw a lot of wildlife in the river. I found out there is a tree with its branches covered with a lot of thorns, and I saw a plant that I have never seen or heard of that has a lot of spikes. As we went further, it became deeper. It went over my boots, and that caused my socks to get wet. As a result, I decided to take off my wet socks and enjoy the water in my boots. It felt very squishy and weird to have a lot of water in my boots. It felt very cold to go in the river. At first, I was scared to get in, but I started to get used to the river, and the cold water. After our river hike, we went nature hiking. We had to go over many obstacles in the wild. As soon as I got to the place we were going to go taiko drumming, my legs hurt because I had taken off my socks earlier. Later, we went taiko drumming. It felt good to suck in the fresh air. During our taiko drumming session in the wilderness and the peace and quiet of Kyoto in the countryside, we learned a lot of new songs on our Japanese taikos, and we memorized them all. It was very exciting because I found a lot of biodiversity in the wild, such as fungi.

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Taiyo’s Reflection (Grade 6)
I went to Hello Farm Organics. It was really interesting. In this farm they don’t use medicine [pesticides] to kill bugs. From this I learned how important the life cycle is and we even saw an ecosystem in rivers and forest. Ecosystems is the connection between bugs, animals, plants and people, like pollinating bees or bugs eating bad bugs. If one animal or bug is gone the ecosystem will change. I could do things that I can’t do around here in city. I could breathe clean air and see lots of trees. I looked at different kinds of biodiversity and we had a chance to dig sweet potatoes and plant garlic seeds. We even played drums and it was really fun. For dinner and lunch, the food was all vegetarian and it tasted delicious. You can learn why the food is all vegetables, top. Doing all of this I learned how hard it is to live in the countryside. It was very interesting.

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Ji Young’s Reflectin (Grade 6)
I learned that biodiversity is important to farmers, especially to the ones growing organic foods because they need to have some kind of repellent that doesn’t include medicine [pesticides] so that the bugs won’t come and eat up their vegetables or fruits. But because biodiversity is all around the farm all the time, a ladybug, for example can come and eat the pesky aphids or pollinate flowers to make fruits and vegetables.

I experienced sweet potato digging. It was raining quite heavily, so we had to dig in the rain. We cut off stems for food, and I know for sure that the sweet potato stems are delicious because I eat them in my home country, Korea. I thought it would be fun so my friends and I were digging, cutting and picking on the farm in the rain for hours. We all got very wet when we went back home. We ate cookies Mrs.Richardson had baked for us with tea. It was delicious eating it after working so hard.

I also experienced going up the river. I was wearing crocs so my feet were freezing cold but I didn’t care because my feet soon got used to the water temperature. As we were starting to walk up the river, my friend and I found a snake. I was so glad that the snake was a dead one. Whew~ Then we got in the water and started to look under stones which is a habitat crabs were most likely to live. I found big ones, small ones, teeny-tiny ones, and gigantic ones. We also found tiny fish.

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Jia’s Reflection (Grade 6)

I went to Hello Farm Organics and I saw many things there. First, I saw a lots of insects and I felt scared of them. But after I kept walking on the farm, I got more brave with the bugs. On the farm I saw many kinds of vegetables and most of them were edible. There were different smells, shapes, and tastes. Also there were insects all around the farm. I learned that they are important because they need to pollinate the flowers, but insects eat all the good parts so it’s not good for plants. I also saw plants with all holes in it because there were not enough predator insects around. After we finished our tour of the farm, we tried to dig out the sweet potato and cut the sweet potato stems for dinner. But, it was really hard I got muddy and dirty.

After that we did our seeding. Seeding was much more easier than digging. Seeding is the main part for growing so I needed to put complicated soil like compost in the ground, and push down the garlic cloves. When I finished planting I washed my hands and legs with the mountain water. It was fun because we caught many frogs, salamanders, and crabs in there.

On this field trip to Hello Farm Organics, we got more friendly with the nature there and I got more brave with the bugs. It was the great trip ever!

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Mahiro’s Reflection (Grade 6)

I went to Hello Farm Organics. When I got there I was excited. In the garden I saw some beetle larvae. When I saw the larvae, I felt like it was weird because, one patch of radish was totally fine but another one looked terrible. Then I learned that there are not enough predator insects around because of pesticides. This can cause predators of the larvae, like ladybugs to stay away so the larvae eat the radish leaves. I thought biodiversity was important because without a healthy environment, the beetle larvae will be out of balance without predators, and find other plants to eat and at the end all of the vegetables will be eaten by the larvae.

At the end of the trip I felt sad leaving the farm because I wanted to go through the forest and also go up the river more because it was fun having to look at nature and biodiversity in the countryside.

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Hayato’s Reflection (Grade 6)
I found a skull of a boar when hiking. There was green moss on it. It was a great experience to watch how the skull work. This connects to biodiversity because if an animal dies, the bone would give nutrients to the dirt. So the plants grow and insects would come to eat the plants and the good dirt would make the tree grow so a woodpecker, bird or an insect can live in that tree. Then humans would cut off the trees and use that to make lots of different technologies and when that human dies he would be buried in the dirt and give back dirt nutrients. This would make a connection and a rotation [life cycle] of biodiversity.

In the garden, there were lots of worms. When I picked it up, Matthew, the farm helper, spoke rapidly, “Don’t kill it!” Matthew explained that worms make the dirt good and healthy. I already know that worms take the dirt in to their bodies and make new dirt called castings. Its like compost. We dug sweet potatoes, too. Large ones and a tiny ones. It rained a lot but it was very fun doing it using the shovel. It was hard to dig it slowly because I might cut off the sweet potatoes into half. But this was a good experience to find out the perspective of a farmer who grows crops and comparing the citizens who eat the farmer’s crops.

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