Community spirit grows from school garden

Photo by Richie Ann Ashcraft—Wingate Elementary School students fill the raised bed of a garden with dirt in May, hoping to grow vegetables, though their first crop was meager for their goal of supplying the school cafeteria. The garden has since become a community effort, and the Wingate Garden Committee is raising money for a bigger garden, complete with irrigation system.

What started as a way to show Wingate Elementary students the food-growing process has turned into a community effort to build a kid-friendly garden that will supply vegetables to the school’s cafeteria.

Last spring, students filled a raised garden bed on campus with nutrient-rich soil. They grew corn, beans and onions. But the crop was meager in terms of being able to supply food to the cafeteria.

This year, the Wingate Garden Committee plans to expand the project to include four more raised beds.

Members hope to raise $5,000 for the project by the end of this month by applying for grants, selling market bags and ceramic garden markers, and soliciting donations from the community.

The new beds will allow for each grade level to have its own garden to tend this spring and summer. Students will get to choose what kinds of vegetables to plant.

“We really want to give ownership to the kids,” said Carol Wethington, principal of the school.

Building a kid-friendly garden is hard work, she said. The beds have to be built, and the soil needs to be enriched with compost. Then, the garden needs a working irrigation system, which can be costly.

The Christensen family and local business WD Yards have volunteered to design and build the irrigation system, but supplies are needed.

Wingate Boy Scout Troop 330 built several composting boxes, and the students are planning to see which grade can produce the most gardening soil.

The school’s parent-teacher association started the fundraiser with a $500 donation.

Building a self-sustaining garden is not a project that can be completed overnight or even in a year, Wethington said.

The garden committee is working toward having enough vegetables to supply the cafeteria with product within the next five years.

Wethington said the Win-gate community has rallied together.

“What started as a discussion about healthier food in the cafeteria turned from a school effort into a community effort,” she said.

The project also has the full support of School District 51, said Christy McGee, communications specialist for the district. The district is looking at the project as a model for possible gardens at other schools, McGee said.

Donations can be made to the Wingate Garden, 351 South Camp Road, Grand Junction 81507.

For questions regarding gardening at other schools, call Dan Sharp, District 51 director of nutritional services, at 254-5181.


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