The School Garden: Dig It!

How would you like to go through the lunchline and be able to get fresh vegetables?

“My dad thought that because last year we had a lot of extra produce in the greenhouse…this year we figured we just take [crops] like tomatoes and put them in the cafeteria,” said junior Zachary Markhardt.

The agriculture department is working with the school’s lunch program to provide fresh vegetables in the garden bar. It all started with the community garden.

“I wanted a place where I could teach students to have some practical, real world, outdoor experiences. We had been doing a lot of activities in the greenhouse, and been doing them on a very small scale, and I wanted a place where we could do these things in a more real world environment,” said agriculture teacher Brad Markhardt.

The community garden was started last year, and it provides real-life farming experience for students. The community garden is divided into two; one part has individual plots for community members, and the other is used by the school.

 “We’ve only had one planting season so far,” said Zachary. “It was kind of last-minute; the city had purchased some land for a soccer field, but the bottom part of it was too wet to be used for a soccer field, so we thought that it could be transformed into a community garden.”

The community garden also could provide a fresh treat for students in the future.

“I remember we had kohlrabies the size of footballs out there, and they were all just going to waste,” said Zachary.

Vegetables given to the cafeteria would be more mild foods, such as tomatoes, but the real challenge isn’t picking foods people would enjoy; it’s the growing season.

“A lot of vegetable crops would be ripening during the summertime, and that’s not going to work with the school year. It would have to be crops that would mature later in the fall. There might be some fall crops and things that we could put in even,” said Brad Markhardt.

Another issue would be getting students helping out. The growing season is mainly during the summertime, and getting students to help out during the summer can be a challenge. That’s where the FFA comes in.

“There would be agriculture classes that would be involved in this as well. But agriculture classes… aren’t happening in the summertime. Student work, though, continues in the summertime and that’s where FFA is an extension of the classroom. Past the school walls, and past the normal school days,” said Brad Markhardt.

For those involved in agriculture classes, being able to see how your work in the fields is appreciated by fellow students is a wonderful opportunity.

“It’s a challenge, but it’s something that I’m sure we’ll be able to work through, and I think it would be a really awesome experience for students to really see the role that agriculture plays in their life,” said Brad Markhardt.