PIEDMONT -- Piedmont celebrated a sunny Arbor Day on Monday -- which was Earth Day -- with a community gathering at Beach Elementary School's edible garden.
"It's a proud day for us," said Beach Principal Julie Valdez. "It's exciting for the students to see the fruits of their labors celebrated. The kids are excited about the garden in ways it's hard to replicate."
Student Raydan Holmes, 9, thinks we're lucky to have a place like Earth to live on.
"We can keep the Earth clean and clean it up to make sure we can keep it and it doesn't get polluted," she said.
Maggie Black, a fifth-grade garden "ambassador" for the celebration, said her favorite part about having the school garden is that teachers explain how plants grow and reproduce seeds.
"It's fun to understand how it works," Black said. "I love planting, growing and eating the plants."
Piedmont Mayor John Chiang called for a moment of silence for victims of the Boston bombings a week earlier. He told the crowd of about 100 people that Earth Day is a reminder that we are stewards of the planet.
"Arbor Day began on April 10, 1872, in Nebraska, and it's estimated that a million trees have been planted since," Chiang said. "Earth Day began on April 22, 1977, and today it's celebrated in 192 countries."
He said many people had contributed to the creation of the gardens at Beach school, including parents, Eagle Scouts and the city.
"It's a great example of public and private partnership in this town," Chiang said.
John Gibbs, the landscape architect who designed the Beach school garden, said building the edible garden was "a massive effort."
"We had a vision for a green schoolyard," said Gibbs, who said the planter boxes were made from recycled wood. "We wanted teaching places and play places as well. This will be our inaugural year for harvesting."
The guest speaker at the late afternoon gathering was Jerry Jaksich, chef and co-owner of the Ramen Shop restaurant on College Avenue. Jaksich brought along a few props in the form of scallions, asparagus, leafy tatsoi, cress and a glass jar of sardines. As he held up each vegetable, Jaksich was able to name the farm where it was grown and the name of the farmer.
"I wish I'd known that as a kid, that there's someone working day and night growing this for us," said Jaksich, who said his mom did the grocery shopping at Costco. "If a farmer comes into our restaurant, they're treated as VIPs. They get the best seat, even if a movie star walks in."
He said he likes to eat local produce when it's in season.
"I love waiting for nine months until summer to taste the first tomatoes and strawberries," Jaksich said.
He said people understand more today about eating food that's grown locally.
"I think you kids are growing up at a great time," he told the students.
Laura McCutcheon and Taryn Wolf, who both work at Whole Foods, also spoke to the crowd about the importance of wholesome, organic food. McCutcheon said the company cares not only about its customers and the quality of its food but about humans and animals all the way down the food chain -- for example, all products containing eggs must derive from free-range chickens.
"It's not just about good food, it's about being socially responsible," said Taryn, referencing Whole Foods CEO John Mackey's new book called "Conscious Capitalism."
John Lenahan, Piedmont Park Commission chair and emcee for the day, wrapped up by inviting people to enjoy refreshments -- which included healthy orange slices -- and stay for the planting of a new citrus tree and strawberries.
Fifth-grade "ambassadors," who wore their gardening aprons for the occasion, led tours of the edible gardens.
"We grow stuff like lettuce that could be in a salad," said Walker Mahany, 11. "It's cool that we have lessons in class before we plant. We learn about meteorology, osmosis, all this cool stuff. It's fascinating."