Saturday, June 30, 2012

Funding Our Farm

It is amazing how far our school farm has come in one short year. With support from our school community, local business and organizations as well as our school district, we have really begun to make an impact on our community and most importantly our kids.

There is of course a "Farm Team" that takes charge in planning and organizing all aspects of the farm. Our team consists of many different people with a wide range of talents. The team is open to anyone who would like to participate, so we are constantly changing for the better. We have an architect, a teacher, a go-getter task oriented mom (who keeps us organized and on task when we meet), a grant writer, a couple avid gardeners, an artist (for our cute tshirts, signs and murals), a butterfly expert, a writer (for the many articles that are submitted to local papers and media), a nutrition-minded parent, and all of the members on the team want our kids to be healthy, happy kids.

In addition to the  support of our farm team and community, we have been able to access a wide variety of funding and donations from many different sources. There are so many resources available for nutrition and education these days, that we have received just about everything that we have asked for.

Many garden nurseries and home improvement stores are glad to donate plants and seeds. They typically have a request form that you complete and they are happy and helpful to work with you. There are endless resources on-line when you search education/nutrition/school garden grants. If your school is considered a low income school, then you are much better off as far as accessing the many grants that are available for your school population.

Our school and PTA help support and fund our farm as well. Many students have birthday parties where they invite their whole class. Their parents thoughts are that they don't need a million more toys in their house, so the kids ask their party guests to bring donations for the farm. We have received many tools, gloves, gift cards and all the seeds and plants that we needed to plant our beds for our first planting this spring.

We have also had some cute fundraisers. At the beginning of the year, we sold seed pots that kids could purchase and start their own plants as well as build excitement about our farm.

We also made and sold Fall scarecrows that we got at the dollar store and jazzed them up with ribbons and flowers.

At our Fall carnival, we sold "Adopt A Worm" boxes that contained a couple worms for the kids to begin to learn about worm composting and to add to their gardens at home.

 Our school holds an auction each year and the Farm Team donation was for 25 kids to come to a farm party. The moms that donated the party served healthy salads and snacks. They also had a "stamp your stump" station where each kid could write their name on one of our tree stump seats in our garden and then their name was wood burned into the stump.

At our year end farm celebration, we sold seeds that we had been snipping or dead-heading from the flowers in our garden. We also sold bags of fresh herbs from our harvest.

It really takes a dedicated team to get things off the ground and running, but support from your community and a little creativity can get things fast tracked to a bountiful garden harvest!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Lead Weed

I have been a teacher for 27 years and for the past 18, have been lucky enough to be a Moss Haven Teacher. This year I add to my credentials "Lead Weed" (Moss Haven Garden Teacher).

I have always been outdoor oriented in my personal life and am constantly looking for ways to bring kids and learning outside. Even in Texas when it gets hot, the shade of the tree and a light breeze keeps you cool when you're outside. Having always loved the idea of an outside classroom, work tables and areas where kids could learn outdoors, I was more than thrilled when I heard the buzz of some moms who were thinking along these same lines.  I jumped right in and became the teacher on the team.
Moss Haven Farm Team aka Garden Gals
I come from a long line of farmers. For several generations, my family farmed the rich soil in the Central Ohio countryside. In fact, my cousin still farms the land that belonged to my Great Great Grandparents. My Grandfather had a big influence on me and taught me so much about the dirt, the lawn and the plants that grew there. He was raised on a farm near Lucas, Ohio. Later, when he was raising a family of his own, he became a manager at the local grain elevator. He knew a lot about the farming industry and soon The Statler Fertilizer Company wanted to hire him on for this knowledge he possessed.  He was given the nickname "Mr. Fertilizer", and would travel around the country teaching people about the benefits of fertilizer. In addition to marketing the product he was selling, he also reminded folks to let their grass clippings drop on their lawn rather than bagging them as this was one of the best ways to fertilize their yards. He was a huge fan of composting lawn waste and food scraps. He was "organic" minded before they coined that term. He used to pay me 5 cents for each dandelion weed that I would pull (roots and all) and I would love to work in the yard along side him. It was there, that I learned many of my first lessons in gardening.
My Grampa, Dale Peterson, aka Mr. Fertilizer
When I had a home of my own, the first thing that I did was start a garden. I am by no means an expert gardener, just an avid one. I have as many failures as successes, but with either, it is a constant learning curve. I am very happy being the Lead Weed at our school and every day that I dig in that dirt, I can't help but think about my Grandfather and how proud he would be of me today. The cycle keeps spinning and I hope to teach many kids the love of gardening that I learned from Grampa Peterson.

Future Farmers Of America?

Monday, June 25, 2012

Worm Ranching..., Yes That Too

A plentiful harvest supported by our worm friends.
Since our school is 100% organic, we are looking for ways to raise our crops and children by using as many organic, sustainable methods of farming that we can get our hands on. This year, we had Heather Rinaldi from Texas Worm Ranch come out for a visit.
Heather Rinaldi, a Texas Worm Rancher
Previously, she had given us three worm boxes to keep in our primary classrooms so that the kids could learn about vermicomposting and feel the love of worms. 

A handful of worms making our vermicompost
When our bins were doubling in worm population, it was time for Heather to come out and teach us how to make new boxes and split our worms. She taught us not only what we needed to do to care for our worms, but also about the pure magic of worm poop and the wonderful ways that it will help our farm produce grow.

A handful of harvest
Check out her sight, she offers many practical easy to use methods for using worms in your

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Growing Seeds Of Change

A flat of seedlings to put in the garden.
When our school planted the first round of seeds and plants in our beds, I knew that there would be so much learning that would take place. What I am constantly amazed of is all the excitement and innovation that I see in our community as it relates to farming as well as nutrition. This excitement comes from the kids, the staff and the families in our neighborhood.
Parents, Teachers and Kids teaming up and working together

Our teachers  have created innovative gardening lessons and cooking classes.

Salad made from our harvest.
Zucchini bread was a hit!
Fried okra was enjoyed.

This class made soup, salad and garlic bread.

Our parents have embraced our farm by volunteering to "adopt the farm" for a week during the summer months. In doing this, the families get to harvest whatever is ripe during their week.
The Sepulveda family harvest
The Johnson Family Harvest
The Bono Family Harvest

Our students have dug in and contributed in many ways that I wouldn't have dreamed of.
This student saved coffee grounds from home for our worms and our garden.

We all are becoming healthier and earth minded every day when we step out on our farm. I am so excited about all that we have accomplished and the fun that lies ahead.  It seems to be contagious.

Carrots are awesome!

A bountiful harvest to be shared

A leaf of lettuce plucked from the farm

Farm Celebration - Our New Barn

Our new barn will be utilized for storage and support our rain collection system
In just a few months, our farm has grown by leaps and bounds. This week, we celebrated our new barn and water collection tank with an outdoor roundup.
Kids excited about the farm 

We also took time to give each class fun awards for their first farming efforts. 

Two proud students accepting their class award.

We were awarded a check from Lowe's to support our farm efforts and fund future projects.

Mr, Henderson (right) accepts our check for the farm.

We took  in the view, shared the success of everyone's harvest and now look forward to good things to come next fall. E I E I O.., We all love our farm!

The kids enjoy pumping the water out of our rain barrel.

The kids love our barn!