By Drew Gatlin, AmeriCorps Farm to School Coordinator, Fayette County, WV
“A version of this article was originally published in the Fayette Focus, a quarterly publication of Fayette County Schools that is widely distributed to faculty, staff, parents, and students in the school system. It was meant, as David Seay illustrates, “not only [to] inform, but set the stage for other interested schools or groups to participate. The photo is from New River Elementary’s second annual potato dig in their schoolyard garden.”
Picture this: your children and students come back to school in September and every week they are reaping the harvest from their school gardens. Cafeteria trays are full of the freshest produce, collected and cooked on the same day. Although it’s a small start, just at two schools, a combined set of efforts by Patrick Bennett’s FFA students, Cindy Aylor’s health students, and the newly hired Farm2School AmeriCorps member Drew Gatlin made these schoolyard garden dreams at New River Elementary a reality.
On October 10 and 11, more than 100 children at New River Elementary completed their harvest by digging a field of potatoes they had planted at the end of last school year. Swiss chard, perfectly ripe tomatoes, strawberries and more were all collected this fall by students of New River Elementary.
As the existing gardens at New River and Gatewood elementary schools transition into their winter states, we are looking ahead to a number of new projects slated for the coming year. We already have funding for two. The first is a new pork enterprise effort led by Patrick Bennett’s FFA students, aimed a supplying high quality cuts for our PROSTART program as well as sausage for our school breakfasts. The second is the creation of a special needs accessible garden in Oak Hill.
Given the focus on project based learning in the next generation curricula, schoolyard gardening and farming could be seen as a natural extension of the classroom. The sky is the limit and we have resources at our disposal – how would you like to see these programs mature? Please feel free to contact Drew Gatlin to discuss integrating these Farm2School initiatives in your own local community. Reach him at 304-719-7900 or email@example.com