WV School Garden Toolkit

written for and by west virginia school gardeners


Starting the program means doing what?!

By Tanya Hunt, AmeriCorps Farm to School Coordinator, Wayne County, WV

I was set loose in Wayne County WV (primarily in Buffalo Elementary) about two or three weeks ago to start a Farm to School (F2S, I will call it now) program, essentially from scratch. F2S is a very new idea for Wayne County and it is my job to not only convince people of its merits, but to also begin an active program that will hopefully continue for years to come. Our F2S program has three branches: getting local food into school meals, creating a school garden that children actively participate in, and educating students about “real food and real food knowledge.”

Our visual representation of our program, produced with the help of students (and not quite finished), right beside the cafeteria.

While achieving these three goals might seem like they might not occupy me enough for a full time position, I am finding that there is assuredly enough for me to do. Many people in the school system are busy with paperwork, working towards high test scores, and the overall management hundreds of children each day. So to have someone start even just a school garden would be adding a lot on their plate. And there is a lot on your plate when starting a school garden. Even just going to visit where the principal thought a good location for the plot would be required that I track her down at a time when she had enough time to show it to me. (Oh, and I also need Internet access, and a desk, and a stapler.)

Where our school garden will be.

And a lot of my work so far has been just that: tracking people down at a time when they have time. Want to go into a classroom to do a lesson? Track down the teacher and where the class is (at a good time). Want to cut up vegetables to give students a sampling of fresh, raw produce? Track down a hairnet, cutting board, gloves, knife, oh, and get your food handlers license too. Want to get a high school class involved in making compost bins and raised bed frames? Track down a Vo Tech carpentry teacher and send him the list of websites that you tracked down that have all of your ideas on it as well as some plans and dimensions for your ideas. Want a farmer to come to your committee meeting? You know the story…

Successfully having tracked down a class, we did a lesson on cabbage.

I do think all this searching for people is part of beginning a job a like this and it is fun. It’s like a puzzle (and I sure do love puzzles) to find these people and get them in order of how I want their corresponding events to occur. And in these coming weeks, my calendar is booked with meetings of people who are going to give me all the knowledge and devices I need to continue working on this project in a different way. And I am very ready to get my hands in the dirt.

Did you realize starting a project like this required so much logistics and finding people to do things for you? How do you manage all these logistics? Have you ever worn a hairnet?