In the US most of our food travels 1,500 miles before it reaches our plate (www.ceusa.org). Many schools across the nation have implemented Farm to School programs and school gardens. Owsley County Schools began this process about 4 years ago on their school property in Booneville, KY. The initiative began when a working group of students from the University of Kentucky declared Owsley County a “food desert”; having a limited amount of businesses and vendors to purchase food. Today approximately $4,000 of produce is purchased and used annually by the Owsley County Food Service department and used to serve over 700 students daily.
This is a great addition to the school district as a whole. Students enrolled in agriculture classes get first hand experience propagating, planting, and maintiang the school garden. Students in other classes are taking advantage of the garden as well. Math classes often visit the farm and use applied mathematical principles, science classes have taken soil samples and did soil analysis, and students in grades Pre-K through grades 6 have visited the farm for demonstrations in sorghum making, seed germination, soil sampling, and pumpkin patch visits. Not only are students getting the benefits of enjoying fresh produce such as leaf lettuce, watermelon, broccoli, and sweet corn, but they are engaged in learning activities that correspond with 21st century skill standards.
There have been many organizations that have contributed to the success of the school garden including Berea College Grow Appalachia and Promise Neighborhood programs, University of Kentucky Robinson Center, Cooperative Extension Service, and Appalachian Center, Whole Kids Foundation, United States Department of Agriculture, and Owsley County Natural Resource and Conservation Service, and Eastern Kentucky PRIDE. These organizations have contributed through start-up funding, advice, and implementation of the program.