Deep budget cuts have school administrators searching for creative ways to raise money for learning opportunities. Typically, students sell sweets and wrapping paper to raise funds. Fifth-graders at High Shoals Elementary School in Athens, Ga., are growing and selling produce.
The High Shoals Environmental Club teamed up with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences to install raised gardening beds at the school. On Sept. 12, the students planted the first seedlings.
Some of the fruits and vegetables will be ready to harvest in two weeks. The plants, which were donated by UGA Cooperative Extension, include wintergreens such as kale, Swiss chard, collards and lettuce, as well as beets and herbs. Set up as a community supported agriculture garden, the student’s are pre-selling shares of the produce and have already raised $500. Through the garden project, the students are learning to become entrepreneurs. They are also learning the science behind growing food, how to make healthy eating decisions and trying vegetables they may not have eaten before.
“The knowledge they learn through the garden is something they can take with them and benefit from for the rest of their lives,” said Linda Cooper, the club’s advisor and a HSES teacher.
Many of the students have never eaten food they grew in a backyard garden.
Student Claire Reuter, 10, is eager to learn new gardening practices. “We have a garden at home, but we’ve never put a lot of effort into it. I’m excited to know how to grow [vegetables] better,” she said. “I am really looking forward to eating what we grow.”
The four raised garden beds were built by Famer D Organics with startup funds donated by Scott Angle, CAES dean and director. Angle worked with Cooper to develop the garden as an alternative school fundraiser.
“Our goal is to help children better understand where their food comes from. And, in particular, we hope to establish a lifelong appreciation for locally grown food as well as for the people who produce it,” Angle said.
The students are already brainstorming post-harvest plans for their crops. While many were interested in donating their share of the produce, others plan to sell their shares at the farmers market.
Cooper plans to expand the garden with grants and expects the entire school to become involved. Angle hopes the HSES CSA becomes a fundraising model for other elementary schools to follow.
(Andrea Gonzalez is a writer with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)
Students work in a raised bed garden at High Shoals Elementary School as part of the school's community supported agriculture fundraising project.Download Image
Scott Angle talks to members of High Shoals Elementary School Environmental Club about successful gardening. Angle, dean and director of the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences was instrumental in the implementation of the school's CSA program.Download Image