Dawn Williamson held a tiny seed in the palm of her hand as a group of students gathered in the garden at L.C. Kerr Elementary School.
“A big bowl of spinach salad comes out of this tiny little seed,” Williamson said before some students awed and raised their eyebrows.
Williamson, an environmental project manager from Smithfield Hog Production Division, was one of several adults who assisted the students with the planting and continuance of the successful project which began a few years ago. Since then, many community organizations have made contributions to the project.
“It really thrills me,” Williamson said. “I’m a gardener myself and it really makes me feel good to see them come out here and get excited about some hands-on opportunities that coordinates with their classroom learning.”
The Tuesday activity allowed the students to learn about how plants begin as small seeds. They helped by removing weeds and preparing for the early spring crops. Before school ends in May, tomato, okra and sweet potatoes will be planted for the summer.
Williamson added that Smithfield is committed to community service projects, which not only help businesses, but areas where its employees live.
“Smithfield spends a lot of time and a lot of effort encouraging us to come out and do these community projects,” Williamson said.
She added that the garden is near and dear to her heart because of the relationship between childhood hunger, childhood obesity and the lack of knowledge of where food comes from.
“It ties all those things together and gives the kids a good education about nutritious foods to eat,” Williamson said.
Oshe Pittman, an intern with Smithfield Hog Production, believes it’s a good educational experience. Pittman is a junior at North Carolina Central University, majoring in English literature and communications.
“It allows them to be hands-on and to really learn about science and where their vegetables come from,” Pittman said. “They just don’t appear in the store. I think it’s very educational for them.”
Jeff Swartz, child nutrition director for Clinton City Schools, showed appreciation for the volunteers who make the garden a success. Smithfield officials were joined by the Sampson County Cooperative Extension and the Master Gardeners program.
“It’s been a great experience for the kids to learn,” Swartz said. “They’re real excited when they come out here. Next week, when they get to see them coming out of the ground, it’ll be fun too.”
Within the next couple of weeks, Swartz said the students will learn about germination, the process of plants growing from seeds. Like the other educators, he’s looks forward to seeing their expressions.
“Most kids don’t know where their food comes from or how it grows,” Swartz said about the educational project.
The project began a few years ago, but Tuesday was Principal Jennifer Pope’s first experience with the garden. She recently began the leadership position at the school.
“We’re very excited, it gives our students the opportunity to see the process from start to finish,” Pope said. “It makes it real for them. It’s not one of those things where they just go to the grocery store and see the fruits and vegetables. They actually get to see where they start.”
Reach Chase Jordan at 910-249-4617. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.