Almost $300,000 has been awarded to Douglas County schools and educational organizations through the Oregon Department of Education Farm to School grant.
Four separate grants were awarded: $12,224 to Glide School District; $84,500 to Phoenix School of Roseburg; the Roseburg Coalition, consisting of Winchester, Fir Grove, Fullerton IV and Melrose elementary schools, received $98,320; and $99,215.90 to Umpqua Valley Farm to School. In total, $294,259.90 was awarded.
The purpose of the Oregon Farm to Child Nutrition Program Education Grant is to “increase the amount of Oregon food products purchased by Oregon school districts and educate students about Oregon foods.”
GlideStaffing is the biggest problem facing the Glide school garden.
“This is where we most needed it,” co-garden coordinator Mary Brown said. “There are other grants that will pay for our materials, but they won’t pay for salary. Looking at the longevity of a garden, if you can fund a garden coordinator, you have a much greater chance of your garden going on for a long, long time.”
The grant enabled Brown to work on more than a volunteer basis and allowed for the hiring of Dakota Carter, a Glide parent with a background in gardening and a passion for teaching children. There’s only so much you can do as a volunteer, Brown said, and after 13 years of shouldering most of the Glide garden responsibilities, she’s excited for the help.
The job includes garden lessons, monthly community days, attending assemblies and helping to organize food tastings and writing the monthly newsletter. The grant is split between paying for both Brown and Carter’s time. Currently, they split the job, but Brown said she hopes to hand off more of the job to Carter so that she might focus on securing more grants to continue the paid position.
This funding will pay their salaries through June.
Phoenix School of Roseburg
Funds are being used to begin a new Farm and Food Corps at Phoenix School of Roseburg. The program will tie classroom learning and hands-on field work together in hopes of creating current and future success for students.
“It begins with academic instruction so that those educational outcomes are required, like saying science, can be taught by doing something in context, like plant science or soil science,” Phoenix School of Roseburg Program Development Director Ron Breyne said. “Then career tech ed takes it the next step, where the kids are actually doing a lot of the trainings in the career field.”
Students will take their classroom knowledge literally into the field to work on the school’s garden. A farmer will be hired as an adviser and supervisor for the students hired this spring to work in that garden. Students will work to create what Breyne calls a production garden — growing enough food to support to school’s breakfast and lunch program as well as provide fresh produce to local food banks.
The food crew will focus on utilizing and preservation of those foods. Foods could be used in classroom lessons as well as in recipes sold from the school’s food truck. There’s even a possibility of selling to local restaurants.
“The way Thomas (McGregor, executive director of Phoenix School of Roseburg) would put it is, our job is to help the kids identify their goals and then help them meet those goals,” Breyne said. “If we can end up helping the community at the same time and then in doing so, these kids are better prepared to meet their own goals, especially in terms of careers, it feels like a win-win-win.”
The Roseburg CoalitionA near endless list of projects and improvements were included in the Roseburg Coalition’s grant application. Funds were split between garden improvements, field trips, food tastings, inter-district projects and personnel fees.
Each elementary school receives anywhere between $18,000-$19,000. This ranges because pricing for the field trips and food tastings were based on student population.
Along with these learning opportunities, Fir Grove will be using their funds to revitalize its garden. After a few years of nonattendance due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the garden was in rough shape. Third grade teacher Kevin South took it upon himself to change that.
Low and cumbersomely large garden beds have been replaced with smaller, more manageable raised beds. This allows easier access for students of all ages. In fact, every classroom has their own bed. They are also working to establish an outdoor classroom space.
“Up to now the garden has largely been focused on just using the beds that were there to try to grow produce — which is an important part of the garden,” South said. “But also we want to include an aspect of the garden where teachers are able to take their students in the garden for more than that and use that really as a teaching and learning space.”
The grant paid for lumber for new beds, soil, weed block and wood chips to create pathways throughout the space.
Winchester, Fullerton IV and Melrose gardens are more established than their counterpart, so funding will be used to expand what is already offered. All three will be getting new weather stations, which will allow students to learn more about weather and how it applies to the garden.
Melrose will be adding a hydroponics station where students can watch herbs grow which will later be used in school lunch recipes. Winchester will be adding a new greenhouse so plants can grow year round. Furniture, new tools and storage were also some of the things funded by this grant.
“There’s math in the garden, there’s reading in the garden, there’s stories, there’s problem solving. Kids can take risks in the garden and if they can feel confident taking a risk in the garden, maybe they’re going to take a risk by being in a play or trying an instrument or being in a sport,” Melrose principal Tammy Rasmussen said. “We’re able to use the garden to explore really challenging topics.”
Umpqua Valley Farm to School
A nonprofit working to strengthen the relationship between local agriculture and schools, Umpqua Valley Farm to School helps facilitate many of the projects other groups will be using this grant for. Executive Director Erin Maidlow also helped almost every school in this list with their applications.
“Erin has been a very powerful force forward for gardens in Douglas County and she’s the Farm to School hub leader for Douglas County. She’s just awesome,” Brown said. “She’s the one who told me about this grant.”
Maidlow said she can work with any school in Douglas County, but works mostly with the above mentioned schools and Roseburg middle schools. She acts as the bridge between schools and local farms, helping in classrooms, school gardens and school cafeterias.
Along with working with school nutrition directors to incorporate meals used at tastings into school menus and assisting with the goals of the schools above, the Oregon Department of Education grant allows Maidlow to hire a new education coordinator. The coordinator will help with those school projects as well as continuing to grow that educational partnership.
The grant also provides partial funding to continue the work on two flip books that translate native plant and animal names from either the Calapooia or Takelma languages into English. These books will then be dispersed into classrooms throughout the county.
“Working with kids, it’s just become apparent to me that the more that we foster community with our kids — between staff and students, students and students, but also with our broader community — the better,” South said. “This is just such a beautiful opportunity to connect our students with each other and with staff and our community in a way that’s creating something.”
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