In early Spring a call went out through Steven Patrick, the Habersham County extension agent, for Master Gardener Extension Volunteers (MGEV) to assist with the garden portion of the culinary class at South Habersham Middle School (SHMS) Summer Camp. The 21st Century Grant and the Farm to School Program combined forces to have four 4X8 foot raised bed constructed by North Georgia Tech and filled with donated soil. The students will have the opportunity one 60-minute class period each week to plan, plant and harvest a few of the vegetables served in the school cafeteria.
Master Gardeners, Carol Balaun and Ann Tipton met with NEGA Farm to School coordinator, Teri Hamlin & volunteer coordinator Jennie Inglis, to explore options and tour the site of the proposed SHMS gardens. “We discussed which crops we could plant and harvest in the brief four week summer camp time frame. Other crops will be harvested when school resumes in August. A tomato, cucumber and a squash plant were set a few weeks before the summer session started. We hope to harvest these before the end of camp. We took samples for a soil test. The results were used to amend the soil in the beds in preparation for planting and in the first class to teach the students gardening from the ground up” said Carol.
Activity Maps for each of the four weeks were created around the major goals to provide an enjoyable introduction to gardening and an appreciation for the journey of food from soil prep, to seeding, to harvest to the cafeteria tray or dinner fork through theory, hands on experience and record keeping.
Each week the students will have time to plant (corn, beans, squash, carrots, radishes, and lettuce), weed and work in the garden. They will spend time learning about aspects of gardening including soil testing and fertilizers, good bugs and bad bugs, companion plants and the great debate about what is a fruit and what is a veggie. In their Garden Journals, the will record weather conditions, and reflect what they learned and saw in the garden. They will use recycled blind blades to mark their plantings, plan, build and paint a garden sign from repurposed wood, and plant a mini garden of micro greens to take home. The last class students will perform a The Junk Food Blues Rap! A fun song.
The first week we asked the students, 23 girls and 7 boys, divided among four classes, to introduce themselves by naming their favorite vegetable. Ms. Carol presented the overview of the garden plan. The main feature was a Three Sisters Garden of corn, pole beans and squash and helped the students with planting corn, radishes and carrots. Ms. Ann helped the kids take soil samples for testing and talked about the nutrients we added to the soil to nourish the crops with organic nutrients, donated by Gilbert Barrett of Cleveland Farmers Exchange. Denise Dorsey, Habersham County’s culinary teacher supervised the children and took charge of the journals and helping the kids finish garden journal entries. A couple of children mentioned fried green tomatoes as a favorite. Ms. Dorsey plans to include these in the summer cooking connection.
The weather cooperated. Each week will follow the same pattern with the hour divide into three parts, a time for theory, planting and record keeping. The adult volunteers will evaluate each session and revise plans to create a better experience for all. The best practices from the South Habersham Middle school summer program will be included in the farm to school model program guide for Georgia.