A group of children at L.C. Kerr Elementary School circled around a garden bed filled with little chunks of potatoes. They listened as Kevin Weston spoke about how to make them much bigger with a little help from mother nature.
The pieces with sprouts “eyes” were placed 3 inches into a whole, about 8 to 10 inches apart. Next came the water.
“I just enjoy helping the kids learn where their food comes from,” said Weston, a volunteer from Smithfield Foods.
The garden has received a lot of attention and assistance from organizations such as Smithfield and Sampson County Cooperative Extension. Now, the Clinton-Sampson Rotary Club has been added to the mix. Recently, Rotary members planted lettuce, snow peas, spinach and Easter egg radishes.
“I think it’s fabulous to give children an opportunity to learn about where their food come from,” said Rotarian Ann Butler. “I’ll think they’ll develop a better appreciation for what’s placed in front of them to eat everyday, once they see these things grow and have a hand in it.”
Through a matching grant, Rotary provided $2,000 to purchase items such as mulch, fertilizer and seeds.
It began four years ago with a purpose to teach children about where natural food comes from and how it’s produced. Volunteer Jeff Swartz and others assisted with process. He currently serves Clinton City Schools as the child nutrition director.
“They get to see how a small little seed can grow into a big plant,” Swartz said. “They learn about the different stages and within the next four or five weeks they learn about how it grows from the ground to their table for lunch.”
Elizabeth Merrill, 4-H program assistant for Cooperative Extension, said the project is a good opportunity for students who don’t have a lot of farming experience.
“Kids nowadays are three or four generations removed from the farm,” Merrill said. “So a lot of these kids may not understand where french fries or items from the grocery store comes from. This project is a great opportunity to help broaden their horizons and help educate them about the importance of agriculture.”
Rachel Grantham of Smithfield said it’s important and has a great impact on children at that age level. She also mentioned how Sampson County thrives on the agriculture industry.
“As part of that, we have a lot of animals, a lot of row crops, but we also have a lot of produce,” Grantham said. “I think as these children grow up in this county and this environment, it’s really important for them to know what the big commerce boosters are in this state and area.
By touching the soil, Grantham said the students have a better understanding the work that went into growing food when they enjoy a cheeseburger or salad.
“The food doesn’t come from the grocery store,” she said. “It comes from the ground and it takes time, care and attention in order for it to turn into something they can eat for dinner every night.”
For kindergarten teacher Whitney Dunn, 2017 marks her second time experiencing the garden. A lot of students had doubts about things growing in the garden, but they’re always surprised to see the growth. As the plants grow, the students receive classroom lessons as well.
“I’ve enjoyed seeing that overall experience,” she said.
Principal Jennifer Pope said the school is excited about the upcoming season.
“We really appreciate everyone coming out and assisting our students in getting the garden started this year,” Pope said.
Reach Chase Jordan at 910-249-4617. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.