Have you noticed gardens sprouting up all across America at elementary, middle and high schools? They are on many college campuses, too. Typically planted in the spring by faculty and students then tended through the summer, when school resumes students participate in final garden tending and harvesting. This sowing of seeds and growing of plants is a novel task for many of the participants. A century ago a majority of Americans grew some portion of their own food. Many of them lived on farms (30.2% in 1920) where they produced most of their own food as well as food to sell. Knowing how to supply yourself and your family with food was a skill passed down through each farm generation. Currently, farm and ranch families now comprise just 2 percent of the U.S. population. Today many students are 4 or 5 generations removed from the land - and from knowing where their food comes from.
At Thomas More Prep-Marian in Hays, several teachers have taken steps to help students learn where their food comes from and how to grow it. Faculty members Melissa Pinkney, Kelli Jo Kirmer, Randy Brull, and Jay Harris came together this spring to help 8 students establish a garden. For several years Melissa Pinkney had initiated conversations with others about organizing the project. Last fall, in “the most favorable place” on campus, Jeff Pinkney tilled the soil. With positive interest shown by students, planting began on March 26. Joining the onions, radishes, carrots, potatoes, spinach, and lettuces growing on April 17, Red Siberian tomatoes were transplanted into the garden with student Bryan Weber’s help. Melissa Pinkney and Kelli Jo Kirmer stated that one of the project’s challenges was coordinating garden work schedules with students’ many other school activities. Randy Brull said that a problem in getting a consistent water supply to the garden had been solved through ingenuity and team work. Recipients of the garden’s yields will be student and faculty gardeners, with excess produce going to St. Joseph’s Food Pantry. One significant yield of tending to a garden is best summed up by Bryan Weber’s words as he was hoeing, “It is very nice to get away from everything and get back to the basics in the peaceful environment of garden work.”