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Wednesday, Jan 16, 2019
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Community’s relationship with middle school garden is growing

The Farm 2 School program is sprouting more than just vegetables behind Greco Middle School.

A stronger relationship with the Temple Terrace community is also developing, and it got a big boost from about 50 volunteers who turned out Jan. 17 to create two new garden beds and attend to other chores around the campus.

Alison Fernandez is president of the school’s Parent Teacher Student Association and a board member of Temple Terrace Farm 2 School, a community-based group promoting food education at Greco.

“We want community members to have a positive opportunity to interact with students and we want students to have a positive educational experience and this project gets us both,” she said.

Getting a little soil under students’ fingernails in their garden adds another dimension to Greco’s existing culinary and agriculture academic programs.

“It’s experiential learning and gives kids exposure to where food comes from,” Fernandez said.

Guiding that learning experience is Wendy Barr, who teaches agriculture at Greco. She says the curriculum provides students a chance to learn about more than just crops and animals.

“They’re raising their own chickens and when those hens start laying eggs they’ll start their own business,” she said. “They’ll use math when they do business and English when they create advertising. It’s education with a purpose.”

Barr expressed appreciation for the large number of volunteers who showed up to help by digging two new garden plots and building the wooden frames for them.

“It’s a lot of work and we do need help from the community like this amazing group of kids who volunteered today.”

The group of volunteers Barr referred to are University of South Florida students participating in the university’s Stampede of Service, an annual event promoting community involvement. Getting USF Bulls connected with the world outside their classrooms is Justin Fitz’s responsibility as the assistant director of USF’s Center for Leadership and Civic Engagement.

“This provides an opportunity for students to see how much positive influence they can have,” he said.

Alex Calderon-Chau, along with some of his Phi Mu Alpha fraternity brothers, showed up to help.

“Getting up early instead of sleeping in and then helping people feels good,” he said.

The new garden beds will be put to good use as Greco students plant their crops and make decisions on what to do with their harvest. Previous yields, such as a bounty of sweet potatoes turned into muffins and pies, have been served at school events.

“We’ll grow collard greens, peppers, tomatoes and corn because the students want to have popcorn,” said Barr.

Helping the students achieve that will require ongoing support from people in the Temple Terrace community. Many civic groups, private companies, individuals and the City of Temple Terrace provide financial and in-kind donations, but pulling weeds and otherwise tending the garden is a hands-on effort that benefits from some neighborly help. Members of Farm 2 School will have monthly work days to lend their sweat and expertise to the cause. The public is invited to participate.

“We’re hoping to recruit volunteers from the community within walking distance of the school,” said Farm 2 School board member Elizabeth Leib, who has also been involved in establishing community gardens throughout Temple Terrace that are available for public use, including an area behind Greco Middle School that is adjacent to the student garden.

Many of the students at Greco Middle School live beyond the Temple Terrace City limits and Leib considers the Farm 2 School project an opportunity to nourish community relationships as well as young bodies.

“We have students coming from other neighborhoods that may not have all the resources we do in Temple Terrace so let’s show them what it’s all about,” she said.

Leib says the next Farm 2 School work day at Greco Middle School is Feb. 21 from 10 a.m. to noon. For information, call (813) 892-5704 or email [email protected]

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