Children, much like a garden, require careful cultivation and attention to help them flourish. A nutritious diet, patience and care allow them to grow into happy, healthy citizens.
The inaugural Arkansas Grown School Garden of the Year contest, sponsored by the Arkansas Agriculture Department and Farm Credit, introduces students to the state’s largest industry, agriculture. It also gives them a chance to get their hands dirty.
“We are pleased to partner with Farm Credit to recognize the school garden programs that are crucial for educating students about the benefits of fresh produce,” says Butch Calhoun, Arkansas secretary of agriculture. “The life skills and nutrition lessons learned from the hands-on experience of school garden programs will serve the students for the rest of their lives.”
Applicants from Arkansas schools, in prekindergarten through grade 12, submit videos, pictures and other documentation of their garden that the students plant and maintain. These submissions garner awards for creativity and participation.
“The students seem to really enjoy taste testing the produce raw, as well as in their school lunches,” says Cynthia Edwards, Arkansas deputy secretary of agriculture.
“We were impressed with the quality of the gardens as well as the hard work of the students and teachers. “The students were knowledgeable and enthusiastic about working in the gardens, and the teachers were very creative in how they worked the garden into other curriculum areas, such as math and foreign language,” Edwards says. “One garden had the plants labeled in English and Spanish.”
Harp Elementary took home the top award and $1,500. Asbell Elementary, Magnet Cove High School and North Little Rock High School’s Freshman campus earned $500 each.
“We’re proud to reward these outstanding school garden programs that have students actively gardening, because we believe it fosters an appreciation for the important role agriculture plays in our state,” says Glen Manchester, Farm Credit of Western Arkansas president and CEO on behalf of the Farm Credit cooperatives of Arkansas.
“Supporting the Arkansas Grown School Garden Program serves to educate the next generation about the time and care required to grow not only the food we eat, but also the fiber used to produce products for our daily lives.”