Ready, Set, Grow | Local Farm-To-School Programs

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Ready, Set, Grow | Local Farm-To-School Programs

Amanda Huels squeezes "wiggle wire" into place to secure the plastic covering to the new greenhouse at Lawndale Elementary School.

Ready, Set, Grow | Local Farm-To-School Programs

Amanda Huels tries to figure out which ladder to use to reach the roofline of the new greenhouse under construction at Lawndale Elementary School.

Ready, Set, Grow | Local Farm-To-School Programs

Amanda Huels carries a handful of "wiggle wire" to the south side of the new greenhouse to secure the plastic wrap as she helps finish the house at Lawndale Elementary School.

Ready, Set, Grow | Local Farm-To-School Programs

Zeke Dickey and other pull the plastic wrap tight before securing it to the new greenhouse under construction at Lawndale Elementary School Monday afternoon.

Ready, Set, Grow | Local Farm-To-School Programs

Zeke Dickey and other pull the plastic wrap tight before securing it to the new greenhouse under construction at Lawndale Elementary School Monday afternoon.

Ready, Set, Grow | Local Farm-To-School Programs

Zeke Dickey helps secure the plastic wrap to the new greenhouse under construction at Lawndale Elementary SChool Monday afternoon.

Ready, Set, Grow | Local Farm-To-School Programs

Maddox Harris, 8, a second grader at Joyner Elementary School, eats her salad salad during lunch on Tuesday. Students at Joyner were able to eat at the school's new salad bar at lunch. The salad bar is a part of a larger effort by the Tupelo Public School District to make healty habits part of students everyday lives.

Ready, Set, Grow | Local Farm-To-School Programs

Landon Swinney, left, gets a laugh from his classmate Zuriel White, both 8, and second graders at Joyner Elementary School, as White attempts to eat a large stalk of broccoli from his salad during lunch on Tuesday. Students at Joyner were able to eat at the school's new salad bar at lunch. The salad bar is a part of a larger effort by the Tupelo Public School District to make healty habits part of students everyday lives.

Ready, Set, Grow | Local Farm-To-School Programs

Maliyah Smith, 8, a second grader at Joyner Elementary School, walks to the lunch room with her salad after making a stop by the school's new salad bar during lunch on Tuesday. The Joyner salad bar (funded by a grant) is part of a larger effort by the Tupelo Public School District to make healty Habits part of students everyday lives.

Ready, Set, Grow | Local Farm-To-School Programs

Ella Michael Gable, 8, a second grader at Joyner Elementary School, makes a salad at the school's new salad bar during lunch on Tuesday. The Joyner salad bar (funded by a grant) is part of a larger effort by the Tupelo Public School District to make healty Habits part of students everyday lives.

Ready, Set, Grow | Local Farm-To-School Programs

Thomas Wells | BUY AT PHOTOS.DJOURNAL.COM

Ready, Set, Grow | Local Farm-To-School Programs

Thomas Wells | BUY AT PHOTOS.DJOURNAL.COM Brodie Warren, from left, Jack Denton and Cami Buntin examine leafs from their vegtable garden at Parkway Elementary School on Tuesday.

Ready, Set, Grow | Local Farm-To-School Programs

Thomas Wells | BUY AT PHOTOS.DJOURNAL.COM Pakway Elementary student Tylan Witherspoon uses a vegatable leaf as a fan as they pick vegatables they grew from the beginning of the school year.

Ready, Set, Grow | Local Farm-To-School Programs

Thomas Wells | BUY AT PHOTOS.DJOURNAL.COM Tylar Setser shows the students froom Parkway Elementary how big the roots are for some their vegtables they planted earlier in the school year.

Ready, Set, Grow | Local Farm-To-School Programs

Tylar Setser shows the students froom Parkway Elementary how big the roots are for some their vegtables they planted earlier in the school year.

Ready, Set, Grow | Local Farm-To-School Programs

Ready, Set, Grow | Local Farm-To-School Programs

Parkway Elementary students begin to harvest some of the vegtables they raised from the beiginning of the school year as part of a "Growing Healthy Waves" program.

Ready, Set, Grow | Local Farm-To-School Programs

Lilly Anna Jonelis, Bryson Strong and Amer Sulaiman, measure plants in the garden at Carver Elementary School with Carolyn Beasley, the garden sponser.

Ready, Set, Grow | Local Farm-To-School Programs

Aaliayiah Bowdy, a first grader at Carver Elementary School, eats Kale that was picked from the school's garden Wednesday Morning in Tueplo.

Ready, Set, Grow | Local Farm-To-School Programs

Armoni Lockridge, a first grader at Carver Elementary School, digs in one of the school's garden beds Wednesday morning in Tupelo.

Ready, Set, Grow | Local Farm-To-School Programs

Amanda Huels, a FoodCorps representative, shows Malik Turner and Jermichael Homes, first graders at Carver Elementary School the proper way to pick Kale as they work to harvest what has been grown in the school's garden for local resturants Wednesday morning in Tupelo.

Ready, Set, Grow | Local Farm-To-School Programs

Donna Loden, coordinator of the growning healty waves, works with Parkway Elementary Students at one of the school's garden boxes Thursday morning in Tupelo.

Ready, Set, Grow | Local Farm-To-School Programs

Kurt Manley and Emily Holland of Toyota Manufacturing Mississippi, present Donna Loden, coordinator of Growing Healthy Waves, with $10,000.00 to advance the Tupelo Public School District's Farm2School efforts Thursday morning at Parkway Elementary School in Tupelo.

Ready, Set, Grow | Local Farm-To-School Programs

Helen Boerner, member of the healty task force, gives hi fives to Parkway students at the end of the Farm2School presentation where Toyota Motor Maunfacturing gave $10,000.00 to the Tupelo Public School District to help advance the Growing Healthy Waves program Thursday morning in Tupelo.

Ready, Set, Grow | Local Farm-To-School Programs

Natalie Barnes, a kindergartener at Parkway Elementary School, is amazed at the growth of the vetetables while she measures them with Donna Loden, coordinator of Growming Healthy Waves, Thursday morning at Parkway Elementar School in Tupelo.

Ready, Set, Grow | Local Farm-To-School Programs

Parkway Elementary School students attend the Farm to School presentation, where Toyota Motor Manufacturing granted $10,000.00 to the Tupelo Public School District to advance its Farm2School Efforts Thursday morning in Tupelo

Ready, Set, Grow | Local Farm-To-School Programs

Parkway Elementary School students clap at the end of the Farm to School presentation, where Toyota Motor Manufacturing granted $10,000.00 to the Tupelo Public School District to advance its Farm2School Efforts Thursday morning in Tupelo

Ready, Set, Grow | Local Farm-To-School Programs

David Hunt begins building several new beds to expand the Carver Elementary School made possible by an AEE grant.

Ready, Set, Grow | Local Farm-To-School Programs

David Hunt begins building several new beds to expand the Carver Elementary School made possible by an AEE grant.

Ready, Set, Grow | Local Farm-To-School Programs

The rules for the Carver Garden are a reminder for students on how to learn while visiting the garden.

Ready, Set, Grow | Local Farm-To-School Programs

Matthew Ring, 6, makes his way to the Carver Elementary School garden Tuesday to learn how a garden works.

Ready, Set, Grow | Local Farm-To-School Programs

Paislei Watson, 6, joins her classmates in getting impressions of different types of leaves during a visit to the Carver Elementary School garden Tuesday.

Ready, Set, Grow | Local Farm-To-School Programs

Carver Elementary School teacher Carolyn Beasley gives the tour of the school garden that was built using an AEE grant.

Ready, Set, Grow | Local Farm-To-School Programs

Carver teacher Carolyn Beasley starts the tour of the Carver Elementary Garden by reading a book about what makes a garden Tuesday.

Ready, Set, Grow | Local Farm-To-School Programs

Neon Pig chef Seth Copeland begins cutting up kohlrabi as and Amanda Huels teaches students at Joyner Elementary how to cook a veggie fritter Friday afternoon.

Ready, Set, Grow | Local Farm-To-School Programs

Amanda Huels, right, goes over the recipe for the kohlrabi and carrot fritter with avocado sauce before they start cooking at Joyner Elementary Friday afternoon.

Ready, Set, Grow | Local Farm-To-School Programs

Evelynn Cash, left, learns how to grate a carrot as her second grade class at Jouyner Elementary learn how to cook a veggie fritter on Friday.

Ready, Set, Grow | Local Farm-To-School Programs

Students begin grating carrots as they learn how to cook a kohlrabi and carrot fritter with avocado sauce on Friday.

Ready, Set, Grow | Local Farm-To-School Programs

Neon Pig chef Seth Copeland begins cooking vegatables fritters for students at Joyner Elementary to sample Friday.

Ready, Set, Grow | Local Farm-To-School Programs

Fritters finish cooking in oil before students at Joyner Elementary sample their recipe.

Ready, Set, Grow | Local Farm-To-School Programs

Madysen Johnson reacts after tasting a kohlrabi and carrot fritter they prepared and chef Seth Copeland from KOK cooked for the students on Friday at Joyner Elementary School.

Ready, Set, Grow | Local Farm-To-School Programs

Students Dylan Boydstun, left, and Brody Hall prune plants before customers arrive in the greenhouse Wednesday at Pontotoc Middle School.

Ready, Set, Grow | Local Farm-To-School Programs

Many plants and vegetables, including romaine lettuce, are growing in the greenhouse at Pontotoc Middle School and is cared for by the agriculture students.

Ready, Set, Grow | Local Farm-To-School Programs
04111628 Pontotoc farmers market class

Lauren Wood | Buy at photos.djournal.com Student Walt Gardner prunes a lettuce head before customers arrive in the greenhouse Wednesday at Pontotoc Middle School.

Ready, Set, Grow | Local Farm-To-School Programs

Student Dave Cole plants lettuce in the raised beds Wednesday afternoon in the courtyard at Pontotoc Middle School as part of the agriculture elective class.

Ready, Set, Grow | Local Farm-To-School Programs

Agriculture teacher Kelly Ginn, center, helps students plant lettuce in the raised beds Wednesday afternoon in the courtyard at Pontotoc Middle School.

Ready, Set, Grow | Local Farm-To-School Programs

Student Carter Cleveland helps Jane McVay pack up plants before she purchases them at the greenhouse Wednesday afternoon at Pontotoc Middle School.

Ready, Set, Grow | Local Farm-To-School Programs

Agriculture teacher Kelly Ginn, right, helps student Allison Floyd prune the plants in the greenhouse Wednesday afternoon at Pontotoc Middle School.

By Emma Crawford Kent

Ever thought about how schools use their green spaces?

From courtyard gardens to full-on pumpkin patches, a growing trend in the Northeast Mississippi area is to use those oft-overlooked spaces to grow vegetables.

The farm-to-table movement brought locally-sourced food and nutrition into focus in recent years, and educators are following suit, bringing gardening and nutrition lessons aimed at creating healthy kids to local schools.

While the farm-to-school idea may not be completely new to the Northeast corner of our state, it is growing.

Two school districts leading that growth are the Tupelo Public School District and the Pontotoc City School District.

Elementary schools in the Tupelo Public School District have built gardens on their campuses and added gardening time into the students’ busy school days over the last several years.

In 2015, Pontotoc Middle School added gardens to its courtyard and a greenhouse that would eventually turn into a small farmer’s market at the school.

Garden and agriculture programs also exist in the Nettleton and Baldwyn school districts.

“Having the foundation of knowing that your food doesn’t just come shrink-wrapped from Wal Mart – I think that is priceless,” said Kelly Ginn, former agriculture teacher at Pontotoc Middle. “ I think it’s amazing that communities and schools are willing to let their children play with that and explore that, because it’s really a lot of fun.”

Tupelo’s farm-to-school program, “Growing Healthy Waves,” is a district-wide initiative created through a partnership with FoodCorps.

In the Tupelo school district, students tend to the plants and teachers deliver garden-related lessons that teach academic and life skills.

The gardens provide the perfect opportunity for elementary-aged students to get their hands dirty while learning about science, nutrition and math.

A large garden at Pontotoc Middle School includes raised beds and container gardens as well as a greenhouse.

An $80,000 grant from Blue Cross Blue Shield Mississippi originally paid for the construction of the Pontotoc greenhouse, raised beds, seeds and gardening tools, among other supplies.

Taking a cue from Pontotoc, a greenhouse was built this summer on Lawndale Elementary’s campus in Tupelo.

Pontotoc students use the greenhouse and surrounding beds to grow and sell tomatoes, peppers, lettuce, squash, cucumbers, potatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts and pumpkins, depending on the season.

The students have also now begun starting their own plants from seed and cuttings, including houseplants.

Not only does gardening connect students to the food, Ginn said, it connects them to the community as they sell their produce.

“It’s a great way to have fresh-grown stuff right there in town that people may not have in their homes,” Ginn said.

These programs in Tupelo and Pontotoc have mostly been made possible through grant money, but schools are now finding new ways to make the programs sustainable.

At Pontotoc Middle, selling produce is supplemented by what Ginn calls the “Greenhouse Hotel.” During the winter, community members and school teachers and staff can pay to house their outdoor plants in the school’s greenhouse from late November until March.

It’s an easy way to earn some extra cash – $300 this past year – to put back into the program, Ginn said.

With $800-$900 from selling produce and plants, the middle-school enterprise brought in more than $1,000 during the 2016-17 school year.

According to TPSD Growing Healthy Waves volunteer Donna Loden, the plan is to have Lawndale students eventually sell their own plants from their greenhouse, too.

Loden also hopes to see the greenhouse used for hands-on science, technology, engineering and math lessons this year, and she wants to allow all of the district’s students – not just those at Lawndale – to be a part of the action.

In the meantime, though, Loden’s been seeking Ginn’s advice on how to make Lawndale’s greenhouse self-sustaining and well-equipped for the first group of students who will use it this fall.

The two districts may even collaborate further in the future.

“I hope that we can leverage both of our school districts’ knowledge of STEM and make it a cross-county coalition,” Loden said. “I love the idea of getting those teachers working together.”

 

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