Garden yields food, fun and education
Natalie Long, 6, planted her feet on the wooden frame of a garden bed at Kate Mitchell Elementary School Thursday night and, squinting against the setting sun, tilted back her head to appraise a sunflower stalk taller than she is.
“I planted that,” the first-grader said. “It grew fast, and I think it turned out pretty well.”
About 500 people turned out Thursday over the span of two hours to celebrate the inaugural harvest of the Kate Mitchell Community Garden with a student-run farmers market. A pilot project initiated last spring, the garden promotes hands-on educational experiences for students around academic subjects, supports nutrition and food production education, and offers a healthful food source for students and the commu nity.
Nikyrah Mitchell, 10, was among the students selling produce grown in the garden, such as potatoes, carrots, melons, squash, tomatoes and various herbs. As she weighed melons on a bathroom scale and labeled them with price tags, the fourth-grader said shewas proud of the work she did with her classmates in the garden. “My class and I, we went all out to grow a lot of things,” she said. Other students de monstrated new academic skills by taking orders from parents and community members who lined up for purchases, and by calculating the total costs and making change.
The proceeds will go towards funding the community garden project for another year, organizers said. Shellie Orngard, executive director of Volunteer Center of Story County, said the turnout for the carnival-like farmers market, which exceeded her expectations, shows strong community support for the project. “There were people from all ages and sectors who came out,” she said. Penny Brown-Huber, of Prairie Rivers of Iowa Resource Conservation and Development, said there’s no question the Mitchell Community Garden pilot was a success.“Now we have to sit down and look at the protocols for initiating a garden, the staff and volunteer support a garden needs, and the fundraising required, so we know how to duplicate the project,” she said.
Teachers around the district are asking how their schools can get a garden, she said. “We need to finish our evaluation by the end of November and then make a presentation to the school board before we can answer that question,” she said. “Ideally, we’d like to start a garden at a second elementary school next spring.” Brown-Huber said she expects the evaluation to show that once each garden is established, its cost will be sustainable.
The Mitchell Community Garden was established by Prairie Rivers of Iowa Resource Conservation and Development, the Volunteer Center of Story County, and United Ames in collaboration with Kate Mitchell Elementary School. Wheatsfield Grocery and the HandsOn Network are sponsors.
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