Oakboro students prepare a community garden

OAKBORO — As many across Stanly County begin to prepare their own gardens, students at the Oakboro Choice STEM School started a new tradition of gardening with their own community garden last Saturday. The garden, sponsored by Carolina New Holland, is the result of a collaboration between local businesses, students and faculty at the school.

Hannah Griffin, a middle school science teacher who leads the school’s sustainability club, had advocated for a hands-on experience for her students. Tripp Edwards, a member of the club and a fourth-grade representative on the student council, had advocated for the garden as the fourth grade’s class project.

“Growing seedlings is part of the N.C. curriculum,” said Principal Kelly Dombrowski. “They really get to see the full cycle with a project like this.”

School gardening programs are becoming popular throughout the state with urban and rural schools getting in on the agriculture act. The North Carolina Cooperative Extension promotes school gardening through several programs, including Strawberries in Schools, a collaboration between Extension, N.C. Farm Bureau’s “Ag in the Classroom” program, and the N.C. Strawberry Association.

Strawberries in Schools promotes the N.C. science curriculum objectives by teaching students in kindergarten through fifth grade about different biological, economic and agricultural aspects of strawberries.

Dombrowski sees the Oakboro garden as an opportunity to teach those same lessons.

“With this garden, students can see the actual fruits of their labor,” said Dombrowski. “We are working on a schedule for families to water the plants and weed the beds and ultimately pick the crops.”

Dombrowski said the idea kicked into gear when Joel Thomas, owner of Carolina New Holland, came to the school and offered to partner with the students to make the garden a reality.

“Joel brought out his tractors and turned something unsightly — where our old mobile units used to be — into something useful and beautiful,” said Dombrowski.

She also credited the work of Christina and John Edwards, who are parents of a student at the Oakboro school, with selecting and providing the seeds and obtaining sponsors for the garden. “Christina and John were instrumental in making this happen,” said Dombrowski.

Carolina New Holland in Oakboro, Barbee Farms in Concord and Ted Barbee Greenhouse in Oakboro provided supplies and equipment for the event. Wholly Smokes Barbecue and Food Lion kept the young farmers and the school volunteers well fed and hydrated throughout the day with donated food and beverages.

“Students were excited to share the garden with their friends on Monday,” said Dombrowski. “Ideally each class can have a bed each year. This is definitely a project we hope that can grow with our students.”