By Erica Kearns
Purple carrots? Who has ever seen a purple carrot? Hundreds of students in Clay County schools have – and they ate them too! As well as Clay County grown sweet potatoes, green, red and yellow peppers, kale, and lettuce. A program called Farm to School is helping to add a large variety of locally grown fresh vegetables to the area school’s lunch menu and to kid’s tummies.
Overseen by the WVU Extension Office and the Clay County Board of Education, grower grants were issued to seven student growers and two adult growers in the county to get the gardens started earlier this year. Seeds, plants, fencing, wire and the entire infrastructure involved were set up and the individuals began their own agricultural production businesses. Many of the plants were started in the Clay High greenhouse before being transplanted to the farms. Bob Gregory of Berea Gardens taught a sustainable agricultural production class, teaching gardeners how to make the most of their crop.
These student growers are not only producing a product to be proud of, they are also learning a life lesson in business management. Each farmer prepares an invoice, delivers the product and earns an income by selling their product. Student farmers also influence their peers by showing pride and ownership of the vegetables once they are in the school cafeteria. “Those are the sweet potatoes I grew this year, try them” can have a very positive effect on the way kids perceive a new food on their tray. This program is also extremely beneficial to the school system, in that it offers cost efficient products that last much longer than the processed food purchased from wholesalers.
The local vegetables are ordered and then delivered to each school on Monday morning. Ask your child what they had to eat at school today – you may just be surprised at what it was and where it came from.