New River Soil and Water Conservation District, Virginia

Area High School students had a hands-on experience in the hoophouse. For most, this was their first experience with gardening. Some of the comments were, “This is actually kind of cool,” “I could grow this at home,” “I’m going to show my mom how to do this,” and “I can’t wait to tell grandma that I like to garden.”

The New River SWCD held 17 field days at the New River Hill Farm showcasing its ‘Learn as We Grow Garden’ and hoop-houses. Field days where held for local students of all ages. During field days, high school students planted, pruned, harvested, weeded, transplanted, composted, created irrigation systems, planned future crop rotations, and much more. Younger students were able to get hands-on experience as well by planting vegetable seeds they later took home, ready for transplanting into their own gardens.

At New River Hill Farms, several field days were also held for local civic groups and land owners. During these field days, the district focused on the importance of locally-grown produce within the community to mitigate the effects of food deserts. Hoop-houses were showcased and the ‘Learn as We Grow Garden’ promoted family gardens at home and selling produce at local farmers markets.

During the school year, district staff made seven school visits to local elementary schools focusing on plant anatomy, soil health and general horticulture through hands-on activities that were fun for students. The goal during these visits was to encourage healthier eating habits and general knowledge of how to grow food at home.

Area elementary students were also involved with the planting and harvesting on the farm. They were very open to trying the produce. Most had never tried radishes, turnips, cabbage and snap peas.

Sustainability

The New River SWCD has included support of the New River Hill Farm Education Farm in its strategic plan. By doing so, the district set its current and future goals to continue educational efforts throughout the community. This will be accomplished by continuing 1) development of the relationships made through the Learn as We Grow grant, 2) field days for local students and land owners, 3) school visits, and 4) visiting local farmers markets promoting New River Hill Farms purpose.

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