Guest Post: A Letter from a FoodCorps Service Site Supervisor

The beginnings of Harp’s garden. (Photo credit: CT Erickson)

By CT Erickson, Harp Elementary School Service Site Supervisor

A year ago, 25 students and myself stood in the middle of our playground and imagined for the first time what a school garden could look like. We measured…researched…called any person we could get ahold of that possibly knew anything about vegetables. We spent hours scouring the internet for ideas and grants because I knew without a shadow of a doubt that a school garden would be the greatest thing for my students. A few months later, our dream became a reality. On March 15, 2013, 90 kids and four teachers planted the first ever Harp Elementary Community Garden. Our school garden was around 2500 square feet and housed 18 vegetables and six types of flowers. I watched the amazement on my student’s faces and the pride in their voices when they spoke intelligently to an inquiring adult about the difference between annuals and perennials or various vegetables.

I knew the garden was something I wanted to continue and grow so that it had the potential to reach the 650 students within our school and the parents and community members surrounding it. I had never gardened before and knew that I could never make the full impact I envisioned if I didn’t involve someone else. A few months after our garden was planted, a coworker asked if I had ever heard of FoodCorps. My answer was obviously no, but I was instantly intrigued. I went online and started reading everything I could about this organization. I knew within ten minutes that they would change the face of food education and I wanted to be as much a part of it as possible.

Service member and site supervisor are excited at Harp’s first egg!

I filled out the grant application and crossed my fingers that our school would be accepted. After hearing the news that our school approved for a service member, I ran up and down the halls, telling any person who would listen. I knew our impact was about to grow exponentially. Getting a service member at my school has been life changing, not only for my students, but also their family members, and even for myself. I’ve learned more about food advocacy and child nutrition in the months I have had a member than ever before in my life.

Sheldon, CT’s class therapy rabbit, likes fruit too!

What was an experiment in school gardening within the walls of one classroom last year quickly turned into a catalyst that began to change the school culture as a whole. Students, from kindergarten to fifth grade, are explicitly being taught about nutrition and making healthy choices when it comes to food choice. We would be naïve to think that information was not making it back to their parents, siblings, and friends. Our school garden is preparing to triple this spring, with the addition of container gardens, a greenhouse, composting, worm buckets, apple trees, and even six chickens! I never imagined this experience would have such a beneficial impact. Applying for a FoodCorps service member was the best decision I have made as an educator in my four years. I get so excited to think about what the future at my school looks like because of the impact our amazing service member has. I’m so excited FoodCorps is planting their feet firmly in the future of education!