Tawnie Goetz-Kennedy hopes the garden at Phoenix Charter School in Roseburg yields about 5,000 pounds of fruits and vegetables each year.

Last year, the crop only yielded about 2,500 pounds because after schools closed in mid-March, there were just two people left to work in the garden.

Goetz-Kennedy, who is a teacher and the garden coordinator for the school, welcomed students back into the greenhouse and garden a little more than a month ago — just in time to start planting.

The first order of business for students was building a smoothie patch, with blueberries, raspberries and strawberries. The blueberries have been planted and the other two will soon follow.

“They’ve been out here digging holes, learning about mixing the soil to get the clay to the proper pH level for the blueberries,” Goetz-Kennedy said, adding that the fruits “can easily freeze and be put through the kitchen. The kids can make smoothies and other fun projects for their lunch with them. This was a big, big, exciting project because it was just a bare field before.”

Goetz-Kennedy said every student in the school comes to the garden sooner or later. In the garden, they can earn science, physical education or elective credits.

Rachel Johnson works at the school through the AmeriCorps program as the Healthy Futures leader and spends a lot of her time in the garden with the students.

Johnson was also one of three staff members that helped place new plastic on the school’s greenhouse this year.

The greenhouse is filled with vegetable starts that will make their way into the garden beds outside after spring break.

During late spring, about 65% of the vegetables available at the school’s salad bar will come directly from the garden. Although peas and carrots hardly make it to the kitchen.

“They’re easy to pick and they’re ready early,” Goetz-Kennedy said. “A lot of times a lot of our produce doesn’t start producing until July-August and by then, a lot of the kids have gone home.”

To help keep rodents out of the garden, the school just adopted a cat named Freya.

Freya is the latest animal students care for at the school.

There are also two bunnies near the school garden, Thomas and Fufu, that were adopted from Saving Grace Pet Adoption Center, and a Russian tortoise named Shelby who takes up residence in the greenhouse.

“This is kind of a good place to come hang out when you’re just having a rough, rough day,” Goetz-Kennedy said about the bunny area, which has a bench for students to sit on while they pet the animals.

The bunnies’ and tortoise’s diets consist almost entirely out of vegetables grown in the garden.

Sanne Godfrey can be reached at sgodfrey@nrtoday.com or 541-957-4203. Follow her on Twitter @sannegodfrey.

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