Grown Here at Home: Botetourt County middle school receives Ag in the Classroom grant

Published: Oct. 28, 2019 at 5:32 AM EDT
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The backyard at Central Academy Middle School has undergone a major transformation.

'Three years ago we began this garden project and it was actually funded through Mountain Castle Soil and Water Conversation District. With that grant we used money to establish our beds and install some plants into the landscape. We transferred a pond into the area, as well," explained agriscience teacher Jennifer Hannah.

Students who have been there since it all started have learned a lot about chickens.

"We get them when they’re tiny so they’re fluff. They have no feathers when they come. And every year someone gets to take them home and last year I got to take them home," said Kaela Riddle.

They also built a pond and learned how to care for fish.

"We installed this pond in sixth grade and we originally only had seven fish but now we have a bunch. It’s definitely a lot of work to maintain the pond and make sure the fish stay healthy," said Emma Bobbitt.

They're even learning important lessons about growing their own food.

You can actually be a farmer yourself at home. You don’t have to grow a huge crop. You can just grow a small garden at your back door," said Jaden Kitt.

"At first our goal was to have an outside classroom, really so we could just work and learn and apply what they’re learning in class and hands on," said Hannah.

But it’s become so much more than that.

"We just started growing vegetables at that time to use, more or less as food labs in our classes and teen cuisine. And then we decided we wanted to start sharing some of the vegetables with the school cafeteria, so students could actually grow some of the stuff they were eating from the salad bar. We’ve also donated some of the vegetables we’ve raised to the local food pantry. We also want them to be community minded in this experience," explained Hannah.

Since the school has been awarded a $500 grant from Virginia Agriculture in the Classroom, they’re going to keep expanding on what is a great a thing for students.

"Some of the eighth grade students are going to work with fifth graders that come to tour the schools in January. They’re going to help them start some seeds so they can take them back to their schools and start their own gardens and learn about food production. It’s been just overwhelming to see how far this has grown, literally," said Hannah.