West Side School Garden Growing Young Farmers

Contact: Kimberly Osborne
(304) 766-3363
May 28, 2014
West Side School Garden Growing Young Farmers
INSTITUTE, W.Va. – Students at Mary C. Snow West Side Elementary in Charleston are becoming young farmers thanks to a partnership between West Virginia State University (WVSU) Extension Service and the Keep Your Faith Corp. that led to the installation of gardens at the school. A group of Head Start students harvested the first batch of lettuce last week with the crops supplementing the kids' lunch.

"For several of these kids, it's their first introduction to seeing where food comes from," said WVSU 4-H Extension Agent Shelley Whittington, who provides agricultural education to students through literature and science-based activities. "Planting, growing and then eating their own foods helps them to understand sustainable agriculture at a very young age."

Whittington and others installed a raised bed garden for vegetable and flower production outside the school, as well as two tower gardens to grow lettuce and chives. Another tower garden, growing strawberries and herbs, is located inside the school library, which Whittington has stocked with several baskets of instructional books and teacher resources to continue agricultural education in the classroom. Students helped plant the gardens and participate in care and maintenance.

During last week's harvest, Dural Miller, founder of Keep Your Faith Corp., demonstrated how to properly harvest lettuce from the tower. Each student helped pick crops, which were taken back to the classroom, washed and used in a salad.

"I know the kids get excited about us coming in here to do this," said Miller, who founded Keep Your Faith Corp. as a non-profit organization focused on helping children and adults overcome reading and spelling deficiencies, "but this is truly the highlight of my day."

The students echoed that sentiment, with one student remarking, "This is the best day ever!"

Each student received a pair of their own gardening gloves and an apron. Crops will continue to be harvested and consumed by the students at the year-round school throughout the season.

The project at Mary C. Snow West Side Elementary is one of several collaborations led by WVSU Extension Service. School gardens are operational at Dunbar Primary in Kanawha County, Spring Hill Elementary in Cabell County, Buffalo Elementary in Wayne County and Hometown Elementary in Putnam County.

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West Virginia State University is a public, land grant, historically black university, which has evolved into a fully accessible, racially integrated, and multigenerational institution, located in Institute, W.Va. As a “living laboratory of human relations,” the university is a community of students, staff, and faculty committed to academic growth, service and preservation of the racial and cultural diversity of the institution. Its mission is to meet the higher education and economic development needs of the state and region through innovative teaching and applied research.
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