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Waynesboro Schools Education Farm grows with redesign and student learning

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More than just vegetables are growing on Waynesboro Schools Education Farm.

Students are learning about planting, growing and taking care of produce. And next month, they will learn more about selling produce.

At last week’s regular meeting of Waynesboro School Board, an update was given on the school system’s farm project.

In March 2021, Waynesboro Schools worked with Allegheny Mountain Institute to develop a farm at Berkeley Glenn Elementary School. More than 10,000 pounds of vegetables have been harvested from the farm and given to the community.

“They were instrumental in getting our farm infrastructure in place and getting us set up with a high-yield farm space that really is state of the art,” Waynesboro Schools Director of Secondary Instruction Dr. India Harris said.

However, in fall 2023, the three-year contract with AMI ended and extended year funds created a gap in funding for the farm.

Now fully funded and partnered with Project GROWS, Harris said “it really, really was a perfect fit when we needed it.”

Farm Educator Ryan Blosser, who was born and raised in Waynesboro, is excited to work with the school system.

“I really feel deeply connected to a town that, I like to tell people, raised me,” he said.

Ten years ago, Blosser helped Project GROWS break ground in Augusta County with its farm.

Nichole Barrows, Project GROWS Director of Education, specializes in tailoring garden spaces and farm-to-school programs to meet the goals and objectives of school systems like Waynesboro.

“We’re so excited to be a part of this project,” Barrows said.

Project GROWS is a 10-acre nonprofit farm focused on educating youth about food. The nonprofit manages the Waynesboro Farmers Market.

Jason Fullerton is program coordinator for Project GROWS and oversees management of the Waynesboro Education Farm.

“In 2023, we really do consider it a true privilege to work alongside you,” Barrows told the school board.

Last month, 19 Kate Collins Middle School students attended summer farm camp for one week at Project GROWS, followed by a second week attended by 15 more students.

In a redesign of the school’s farm, Blosser said the goal is to get more students involved.

“So, this is where the farm is headed,” he said of hydroponics, a method of farming without soil.

Starting August 17 in Waynesboro, students will run the farmers market of produce from the school system’s farm.

Waynesboro Schools Assistant Superintendent Dr. Ryan Barber said that so far the farm has been just a farm.

“When you add great people, we’re able to do things that are really amazing for kids,” Barber said.

Harris wrote grant applications from which the school system received funding and Waynesboro Schools Executive Director of Instruction Tim Teachey has provided leadership for the project.

“I think this is one of our signature programs and projects that’s really growing. I think it does have unlimited potential,” said Superintendent Dr. Jeff Cassell.

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca J. Barnabi is the national editor of Augusta Free Press. A graduate of the University of Mary Washington, she began her journalism career at The Fredericksburg Free-Lance Star. In 2013, she was awarded first place for feature writing in the Maryland, Delaware, District of Columbia Awards Program, and was honored by the Virginia School Boards Association’s 2019 Media Honor Roll Program for her coverage of Waynesboro Schools. Her background in newspapers includes writing about features, local government, education and the arts.