Author: Nick Thompson
Last fall the Charlotte Agriscience program applied for a grant through the National FFA Organization entitled “Living to Serve.” Living to Serve is a federally funded program focused on rural communities to develop, implement and evaluate community-based service-learning projects that meet a community need. Projects must utilize the skills agriculture students are learning in the classroom to meet those needs.
The grant will provide $2000 to initiate a partnership between the Agriscience Program and the Eaton Siren Shelter to provide fresh fruits and vegetables, at no cost, to those in need. Students will grow, maintain, and harvest crops year around in the school gardens, greenhouses and facilities, and will sell a portion of the crop to maintain program sustainability. The remainder of the crop will be donated to the Shelter to help offset food costs and provide fresh vegetables for the residents, as well as others in need in the community.
Not only will the Living to Serve grant provide equipment and services to get the project off the ground, it will provide education to the people receiving the produce. Students will offer recipes that include produce they are receiving, as well as facilitate food preparation workshops for the community to share cooking ideas that include fresh fruits and vegetables. The students will also distribute surveys to learn the likes and dislikes of the recipients, and then adapt growing calendars to accommodate the results.
Future plans for the project include a community garden located within the community. This garden would be a community learning center that would not only provide food for the people of Charlotte, but have resources and educational materials available that members could use to help develop their own gardens. The School also plans to add a small orchard that can be used for classroom activities as well as providing fruit for the project.
3 years ago, Agriscience Teachers Lorin Stewart and Nick Thompson set out on a mission to teach the students in the community of Charlotte, Michigan about Local Agriculture. Their plan got underway with the purchase of a 30 x 80 foot passive solar greenhouse where fresh vegetables could be grown with no heat, in the ground, year around. The project was funded with 2 grants, totaling monies of $4500 for start up. The Glassbrook Endowment Grant (funded through the Michigan FFA Foundation) provided the program $3000 for the purchase of a used greenhouse which was retro-fitted to allow the students to grow vegetables during the school year. The Capital Area Regional Foundation then supplied an additional $1500 to purchase infrastructure such as water hydrants, tools and supplies to begin production.
With the new greenhouse, students were able to plant, grow, and harvest produce while learning about structure and function in the Botany class. The project also infused business, marketing, and work-based learning aspects into the classroom. The plan has also drawn interest from many community groups such as “Celebrate Charlotte” a group devoted to promoting the patronage of local business in the community. The latest grant will add another layer of education to the initiative, Service-Based Learning.
The project stems from a need to educate students on the importance of eating fresh fruits and vegetables on a regular basis. It was identified that low income families traditionally lack fruits and vegetables in their diet, and often consider these items “too expensive” when making selections at the grocery store.
The Charlotte Agriscience Department consists of two teachers who teach coursework in Botany, Leadership, Veterinary Science, Wildlife and Natural Resources, and Zoology. Teachers Lorin Stewart and Nick Thompson also serve as the advisors for the FFA Chapter. For more information regarding this project please contact Nick Thompson at Thompson@charlottenet.org.
The National FFA Organization is dedicated to making a positive difference in the lives of students by developing their potential for premier leadership, personal growth, and career success through agricultural education.