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GROW students learning how food is created, from field to table

The students GROW Academy are getting an up-close and personal experience in what is involved in bringing food to their tables.

According to Row Academy Principal Lacie Harris, the edible schoolyards are an important and useful tool in educating students on what is involved in getting food produced and served.

Students at the K-8 charter school participate in every phase of the edible garden, from planting, watering, harvesting and helping prepare the food for their lunches. "Our children don't just go out and pick a few vegetables, or maybe water the crops; they are involved in every part of the process," Harris says.

The garden contains vegetables, such as beets, carrots, cabbage, onions and fennel. They also grow their own herbs, such as rosemary, thyme, sage and cilantro.

The students participate in the program in four-week rotations, including every grade level. Each part of the process is done by the students, giving them duties that are age appropriate. For instance, first graders will water the crops and help weed the gardens, while the higher grades will help harvest the crops and use them in the preparation of selected recipes.

"It is great to see the kids' faces as they look at the finished product of their hard work, allowing them to see what they can create and how they can be a part of the agricultural process," Harris said.

In addition to giving them first-hand experience on how to bring produce to the table, the program also teaches the students how food shows up on their tables.

On a recent visit, the students were making basil pesto from the fresh herbs that were grown in their garden. "The kids seem to love the food so much better, knowing that they made it, from the planting to the preparing of the dish," said Vanessa Ghilarducci, one of the garden educators.

With agriculture being such a big part of the landscape in Shafter, Harris said that it would be so great to see their students be able to grow their own food and vegetables as they grow up. "We can hope that this experience will give them the tools to be educated adults that can tend their own gardens."


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