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Farm-to-school program expands at Satchel Ford Elementary

New plant beds and produce are being added to the garden at Satchel Ford Elementary, where students can learn about different crops.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Satchel Ford Elementary has a farm-to-garden program that’s expanding. Volunteers are constructing new plant beds and planting new crops so students can learn about different crops.

"I like tasting the food that I’ve grown because somehow it tastes better," said fifth-grader Katherine Wormley.

"I really like animals, so then I - and then I also like plants and so the two combine because they’re both nature and I love nature," her brother Ian added.

Their father, Christopher, is the director of the farm.

"I think getting out of the classroom sometimes allows kids to see how to apply these skills that they’re being taught in an environment that isn’t in a classroom where they can ask different types of questions and be able to use the tools differently," Christopher said. "Not just using a ruler in the classroom, it’s using a ruler in the real world scenarios."

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Christopher is helping this garden grow - literally. Although it got started a few years ago, the school scaled it back during the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, Christopher is working with volunteer Lauren Hudgens to expand it.

"Instead of just seeing on a piece of paper, they really see the leaf, the stem, the roots, and then the fruit or the vegetable that comes off of it," Hudgens said. "You have math out here, you have science, you have social studies, we have indigo growing, which is a heritage crop."

"A lot of kids have no idea that a broccoli seed turns into a massive broccoli plant," Christopher added. "That connection in our modern times is very separate from picking up broccoli from the grocery store. And so making that connection is important for kids."

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In addition to teaching students about where their food comes from, Hudgens said it can help them expand their palettes.

"We do tastings with some of our foods that we harvest here and I would say close to, you know, 90% of the kids tasted things, which who knows if they’ve ever had before," she said.

Christopher says the garden is moving into phase two as it expands. The goal is to incorporate more school curricula into garden lessons. To help with this, the school recently received a grant from Columbia Green to cover the cost of soil and seeds.

"It’s exciting because we get to expand the services for the kids. They’ll get more hands-on interaction," Christopher told me.

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Hudgens explained that one of the main reasons the garden started was because of a program at Keenan High School.

"[Keenan] has an Ag program as one of their magnets and it is phenomenal," Hudgens said. "We went over and toured it, looked at their curriculum, looked at what they have there, and so we were hoping that some kids will be exposed to it here in elementary school and then be able to choose to go to Keenan and be able to continue with their Ag education."

The garden is currently looking for volunteers to help out with planting and harvesting. To get involved, you can email sfordpto@gmail.com.

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