Greenup agriculture students will be growing produce this spring for their cafeteria and a farmers market thanks to a $43,000 farm-to-school grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The grant will buy seeds, tools and equipment to convert about an acre of land on the Greenup County High School campus into a mini-farm, where students will raise vegetables and fruits, said Sara Greene, the horticulture teacher at the Greenup County Area Technical Center. Her 125 students and the 180 students in the high school agriculture class taught by Carrie Davis will do most of the work, tilling the field, planting and weeding the produce and harvesting it.
The grant money also will pay for a tiller, irrigation system, walk-in cooler and a portable greenhouse for starting seeds in winter. It also will pay to send two faculty members to a national farm-to-school conference in 2014.
Greenup ag students already raise some produce and the grant will enable them to hike their production by 50 percent.
The more produce they can harvest the better, because local food is a hot new trend in school nutrition and the cafeteria can absorb much of their production. Use of local food particularly makes sense in a rural area like Greenup County, Greene said.
A school-centered farmers market is in the planning stages, and Greene said she hopes it eventually will be able to invite local growers to bring their wares as well.
She also is excited at the educational potential of at-school gardening, where she can teach up to date agricultural practices. Her goal for students is that by graduation they will be competent to grow their own home gardens, she said.
The school garden won’t be entirely organic, but will minimize the use of chemical pesticides and herbicides. Greene plans to use student elbow grease as her primary weed-fighting material.
“It will be a great educational experience for all and I hope the community will support it because it can be a learning experience for the community, too,” she said. “I hope it can bring Musketeer pride back; it’s helping students to eat healthy and my students can take pride knowing they grew it.
“It’s all about preparing students for life after high school, making them college- and career-ready.”
Greene expects to have seeds in the ground in the spring and to harvest produce as it matures in the summer and fall.
MIKE JAMES can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (606) 326-2652.