Califonia Bountiful

It's a bountiful life: Ballpark bounty

May/June 2016 California Bountiful magazine

Job combines love for food, gardening, teaching and baseball

There's a lot more than baseball at San Francisco's AT&T Park. Hannah Schmunk, above, manages an outdoor nutrition and culinary education program for kids in the ballpark's 4,320-square-foot garden behind center field, below. The garden's bounty is also served to baseball fans at two on-site bistros.

The San Francisco Giants hit a home run when they partnered with Bon Appétit Management Co. to create a garden behind center field at their ballpark. More than 60 different fruits, vegetables and edible flowers grow in the 4,320-square-foot area, which opened in 2014. Hannah Schmunk is Bon Appétit's community development manager for the garden, and she shares how this job combines her favorite pastimes and passions.

How did you get this position and what is your role?

I oversee all community events and outreach that takes place in the Garden at AT&T Park. I came on board shortly after the garden's launch to begin designing the outdoor nutrition and culinary education program for kids hosted by the Giants and Bon Appétit.

How are the crops used?

During baseball season, the garden's bounty is harvested at peak ripeness and served in our two bistros: Hearth Table and Garden Table. It's not uncommon to see our chef step out of the bistro to pick leafy greens or herbs midgame. When the bistros get busy, our chef often asks me to do the harvesting.

How have fans embraced the garden?

The great thing about the garden is that it's open to anyone with a ticket to the game, no matter where their seats are. People love it. For some, it's a place to grab a healthy bite to eat before returning to their seats, and for others, it's a place to spend the entire game.

Describe the culinary education program.

When the garden isn't full of Giants fans decked out in orange and black, it serves as a living, learning classroom for kids. Through hands-on activities, children see firsthand where food comes from and how it grows, learn lessons in healthy eating, and roll up their sleeves for cooking classes. For weekly kids' visits, we've partnered with community organizations that support underserved children, many of whom live in economically challenged neighborhoods. While harvesting carrots one day, I had an 8-year-old girl ask me, "Why did you bury the carrot in the garden?"

What's your favorite part of your job?

Seeing the space come alive each week as eager kids roll up their sleeves for activities in gardening, healthy eating and cooking. For many of the kids, it's their first time planting a seed and it fills my entire being with joy to be a part of these moments.

Giants outfielder Hunter Pence reportedly loves kale and catcher Buster Posey professes the virtues of eating vegetables on the garden's social media page. How are other ways in which the players are involved?

We begin most field trips with a video message from Hunter Pence welcoming the kids to "one of (his) favorite places at AT&T Park." We often use Hunter's love of kale as motivation for kids who are hesitant to top their pizzas with the vitamin-rich green. The garden is definitely a team effort and has been embraced by the countless people who make the San Francisco Giants baseball experience so unique. From Giants broadcaster and former major league second baseman Duane Kuiper visiting the garden for a banana kale smoothie and popularizing the "kale smoothie 'stache," to pitcher Sergio Romo filming a Save Our Water public service announcement in the garden, we've seen participation across the board.

How does San Francisco's climate impact the garden?

The mild climate enables us to grow food year round. Some crops have grown better than others but, in general, things grow really well. Kale loves growing at the ballpark! It likes the bay breeze and chilly air and grows all year long in our garden. Ultimately, I think our garden demonstrates that gardens can live and grow in unexpected places and that urban agriculture can be incorporated into a city's design through creative thinking. 

Jennifer Harrison

The garden is a favorite place for fans and players alike, including San Francisco Giants pitcher Sergio Romo.

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