In January of this year Northeast Georgia Farm to School installed a school garden on the Rabun County public schools’ campus for all four schools to use. The school garden was named Wildcat Hill Garden by the Rabun County High School art class, and it has been watched over by volunteers from Georgia Farm Bureau. In March, with spring arriving, the school administration was anxious about giving students hands-on experience in the garden, so Rabun County High School’s Assistant Principal, Charles Wright, created a team to make a plan for what could be done before the end of the school year. The team consisted of Clay Brown, RCHS agriculture teacher; Gretchen Grant, alternative school teacher; Cindy Turpin and Rhonda Williams, volunteers from Georgia Farm Bureau; and NEGA Farm to School administrators. Together we agreed on a concept called “Serve a Salad Day,” and soon after designing a plan, Grant began to put it in place.
The idea was to have students plant salad vegetables (lettuce, asian greens, carrots, radishes, and herbs), work weekly in the garden, and, once the vegetables were ready, harvest them and make a salad. This would allow students to experience the whole process of growing produce from planting to harvesting and eating it. It would also give teachers a framework for creating lesson plans in the garden. At the end of March, Gretchen Grant planted the salad vegetables with her students and Farm Bureau volunteer, Rhonda Williams, and she has been diligently working in the garden with her class at least once a week. She can see that her students in the alternative school program really benefit from being able to work and learn outside, and that working with the plants helps ground them. Not only is Grant working on this project with her students, but a class from both the primary school and elementary school are working on it too. Once the vegetables are fully grown, the idea is that all three classes will get together and harvest the vegetables, make a fresh salad, and enjoy the fruits of their labor together. The Rabun County schools hope that this will lay the groundwork for teachers using the school garden with their students, and foresee it becoming a yearly event that will keep growing.