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Waynesboro students’ knowledge of farming grows with garden

By Rebecca J. Barnabi
For Augusta Free Press

waynesboro gardening
Justin Seguret, a fellow with the Allegheny Mountain Institute, plants sweet potatoes with Summer Enrichment Program students from Kate Collins Middle School. Photo by Rebecca Barnabi.

WAYNESBORO — Waynesboro students are learning a new hobby this summer at Berkeley Glenn Elementary School: the art of gardening.

In spring 2020, an Educational Farm was planted behind the school.

“This is a farm,” said Waynesboro Schools Extended Year Grant Coordinator Denise Cotter.

The farm is fertilized with compost from Berkeley Glenn’s cafeteria.

The school system has reapplied for an Extended Year Grant for a second year and can apply for a third year next year. Afterward, according to Cotter, the hope is to establish a foundation to fund the Educational Garden at Berkeley Glenn and the community garden at Kate Collins Middle School.

“Our goal so we can continue to fund [the gardens],” Cotter said.

Funding this year will allow the school system to put refrigeration in the greenhouse.

Harvest boxes are also available for purchase for $25 each to employees and staff to raise funding for the gardens.

The contents of the harvest boxes vary week to week. Last week was beets, radishes and spring lettuce. The week before was kohlrabi, mustard greens and radish.

“Just depending on what they’re pulling out of the ground,” Cotter said.

The Waynesboro Schools community gardens began with a raised bed at Kate Collins Middle School. Allegheny Mountain Institute worked with teachers at the middle school to create lesson plans about the garden.

A Garden Club created at the middle school has 25 to 30 members, and they were eager to help with the farm during the summer, according to Cotter.

The knowledge was brought to Berkeley Glenn Elementary last spring with the planting of an Educational Farm.

Cotter said the farm will serve three goals for the school system: produce will go back to school cafeterias, starting with Kate Collins Middle; back to the community through free meal pickup at the middle school; and in the fall, food trailers will distribute produce out in the community.

“We’re pretty much trying to grow everything that can grow in this climate,” said Julia Loman, AMI Farm Manager, of the Educational Farm’s 40 different kinds of produce.

The produce is arranged in 12 blocks of six rows each.

Students have helped plant multiple varieties of peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, sweet potatoes, turnips, carrots, beets, radishes, corn, squash, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale and eggplant on one quarter of an acre at Berkeley Glenn Elementary.

“They’ve been really great, and asked great questions,” Loman said of the students.

The Extended Year Grant funding makes possible opportunities for Waynesboro Schools to show students experiences they would not normally get.

The middle school students this summer helping with the Educational Farm might enable Waynesboro High to develop an agricultural program when they enter high school.

“The whole idea is to show them the start to the finish [of farming produce],” Cotter said.

By the end of summer 2021, the farm will have supplied 5,000 pounds of produce for Waynesboro Schools and the community.

“To see where your food actually comes from. It doesn’t end up on the grocery shelf,” Cotter said.

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