How important is the outdoor garden at St. Viator Parish School in Las Vegas? Important enough that when the school moved all of its primary classrooms onto the main campus, the garden moved with them.

In the spring of 2020, they moved the raised garden boxes — built in 2017 by a Girl Scout troop — to the edge of campus, and its crops proved to be vital. That spring, students planted onions, carrots, sunflowers, tomatoes, peppers, red potatoes, peas, spinach, lettuce and radishes, and when they came in they were made available to families hit hard by the pandemic.

Right from the start, St. Viator educators partnered with the urban farming nonprofit, Garden Farms of Nevada, whose mission is to help communities learn how to grow their own food in their own space, with the benefit of learning to grow sustainably in the harsh Southwest desert.

St. Viator Parish School is one of more than 50 school gardens supported by Garden Farms, and the only Catholic school in the group. Members of St. Viator Parent Teacher Organization continue to support the garden project, as does the Viatorian Community, which awarded the school a grant in support of teaching children about sustainable gardening and just where food comes from.

During one of the first weeks of school this year, kindergarten students returned to the garden for their first lesson of the year from volunteers with Garden Farms of Nevada.

“This is what our students learned today: rain in the garden will help soften the soil, producing more flowers and fruit,” kindergarten teachers said. “Our harvest should be big this fall. Bugs, like the tomato horn worm, come from different places and they like our eggplants and tomatoes.”

The Viatorian Community has its own community garden on the grounds of the Province Center and after doubling its size this year, volunteer gardeners have combined to raise more than 2,200 pounds so far.

Caring for the earth, promoting sustainable gardening and feeding the hungry are all core values of the Viatorians.