Hands-On Farming Class in Palo Alto Weekly


Hands-On Farming Class in Palo Alto Weekly

Reaping the benefits of gardening

Local farming enthusiast Pam Scott teaches hands-on class

by Melissa Landeros / Palo Alto Weekly

Growing up as an “army brat,” Pam Scott recalled moving around the country in her youth. While her state of residence continuously changed, one thing remained constant.

“No matter where we lived my mom always had a veggie garden,” Scott said.

Currently Scott is a volunteer teacher through Common Ground Organic Garden Supply and Education Center, teaching a class called “Hands-on Farming” from her Los Altos Hills home. She works alongside three other volunteers — Julie Hyde, Deane Shokes and Anna Teeples — focusing the class on a variety of skills from making soil to raising chickens.

Scott wasn’t always so immersed in gardening. After studying industrial design at Auburn University, she became a creative ad consultant for large corporations, such as Nike. Today she primarily works with start-up and nonprofit companies.

But when she moved to Northern California in 2003, she began taking classes at Common Ground. There her love of growing fruits and vegetables bloomed.

“The class gave me a lot of confidence,” Scott said. “I got my gardening mojo.”

She also began writing about food, foraging and how to maintain sustainable living, serving as a contributor to Edible Magazine for the past year.

After continuous practice and work, Scott’s 1-acre home is thriving with numerous greens like kale, basil and arugula as well as citrus trees. She explained a lot of her garden’s success comes from maintaining great soil.

“If your soil is not thriving, nothing will grow in your garden,” she said.

The key to having great soil means having a lot of worms and incorporating it with compost, she added. Scott makes compost by combining scraps from her kitchen, dryer and grass. “It feels good to bring everything back to the soil.”

Scott has successfully grown more than half of the food that she and her husband eat. Some of her favorite foods grown in her garden are avocados, cherry tomatoes and pomegranate. Scott remarked that “to have a pomegranate right from the tree makes you swoon.”

August, September and October are the most fruitful months out of the year for Scott’s garden. Her produce then is so excessive these months that it goes from her kitchen table to people who are less fortunate.

For those who have their own gardens, Scott said, “Find a food bank near by, and take your surplus.”

She explained that she gets as much out of sharing the wealth of healthy produce as watching her plants grow. Scott recalled going to the food bank and giving a little boy one of her cherry tomatoes and seeing his face light up with appreciation.

The benefits of gardening are substantial according to Scott: from saving money to savoring better-tasting, quality produce.

“The sooner you can eat a tomato (for example) after it being picked the better it is,” she said, adding that type of quality cannot be found at a grocery store.

Aside from tending to her garden, Scott also has a chicken coop, which produces a number of fresh eggs. She explained that she is not yet “an expert chicken mama,” but she is continuing to learn how to raise them and maintain a clean environment.

Now with five years of teaching under her belt, Scott still considers herself just as much a student as a teacher. She remembers loving learning about gardening from her mother growing up. There is always something new to learn and different things to try, according to Scott. The current drought has afforded one of those learning experiences.

“I am figuring out how little I can water my plants and seeing how much food I can get without stressing them out in this drought,” she said.

The class is broken up into four sections, in which students have the opportunity to rotate and try different learning activities. There are activities based on raising chickens, making compost and doing straw-bale gardening, in which soil is not needed and plants grow in bundles of hay. The class concludes with a tour of the farm.

Scott teaches because she does it out of love and passion, she said. “I like seeing the lights go off in people, and seeing their reactions.”

She admitted that gardening and farming is not simple or easy. “There is always something that doesn’t grow,” Scott said. “Expect failure and don’t be afraid of it. … Gardening is an exercise of humility.”

What: Hands-on Farming Instruction

When: Sunday, June 1, 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Where: A home in Los Altos Hills; class directions given when registered

Cost: $39

Info or to Register: Common Ground or call 650-493-6072


Deane Shokes holds up an heirloom tomato grown at a Los Altos Hills farm.

Deane Shokes holds up an heirloom tomato grown at a Los Altos Hills farm.

Pam Scott stands with a wheelbarrow full of watermelons grown at her farm in Los Altos Hills.

Pam Scott stands with a wheelbarrow full of watermelons grown at her farm in Los Altos Hills.

Chickens at a farm in Los Altos Hills.

Chickens at a farm in Los Altos Hills.

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