Donated fence helps protect garden where children learn about plants, nutrition

Olivia McClure  |  3/24/2017 6:49:34 PM

(03/24/17) ST. FRANCISVILLE, La. – The children at Bains Lower Elementary School in St. Francisville love their garden, where they grow an array of flowers, vegetables and herbs. So do the deer that often emerge from the nearby woods in search of food.

LSU AgCenter agent Layne Langley, who teaches nutrition and gardening lessons to the students, tried to stop the unwelcome visitors from eating the bounty of the children’s hard work using home remedies such as soap, a motion-activated scarecrow that squirts water and even human hair. But no matter what she tried, “the deer seemed to find us,” she said.

In December, Langley wrote about the garden for a local newspaper and issued a plea for tips on deterring deer. Reader Mark Daigle emailed her soon after, offering to build a fence around the garden for free.

Daigle recently finished the fence, and the deer have stayed away. His design includes gates on each end of the fence, which encloses a U-shaped section of the school building, that open with a simple push and close by themselves thanks to a pulley system.

Daigle lives nearby and had similar problems with deer in his home garden until he built a fence. He said he has loved gardening since he was a child and was eager to help the Bains students when he read Langley’s article.

“I just figured I’d help these guys out,” he said.

Students at the school — which houses pre-kindergarten, kindergarten and first grade — have lessons in their garden regularly. Langley, along with the school’s physical education teacher, help the children plant seeds, pull weeds, water plants and harvest produce.

The garden, which was started three years ago, has proved to be a valuable educational tool and has inspired students to make healthier eating choices.

“I really like my garden,” said Jack Garza, a 6-year-old kindergartener, adding with excitement that broccoli is his favorite crop he and his classmates grow. “I like broccoli. My mom makes broccoli, and I eat it, and it’s good,” he said

“If they grow it, they’re going to try it,” said Bains Play 30 teacher Lanya Mayer. The Play 30 physical education program is the school’s take on Fuel Up to Play 60, a health and wellness program promoted by the NFL, National Dairy Council and U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The Play 30 concept focuses not only on exercise but also on the overall health of children. The school garden complements the program well, Mayer said, even helping some students become more self-confident.

“Every child has something they’re really good at,” she said. “You don’t have to be the strongest or the fastest to be a good gardener.”

This spring, the students are growing snap peas, cucumbers, tomatoes, broccoli, carrots and herbs. Maddison Collins, 6, described the garden as both “very pretty” and “very healthy.”

“You get to eat healthy food, and it makes you strong,” she said.
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LSU AgCenter agent Layne Langley, center in apron, helps children plant tomatoes at the Bains Lower Elementary School garden in St. Francisville on March 21. Photo by Olivia McClure/LSU AgCenter

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Bains Lower Elementary School physical education teacher Lanya Mayer, left, demonstrates how to open and close the gate of a new fence enclosing the school’s garden on March 21. Mark Daigle, at right wearing hat, built the fence after he heard about the school’s struggle to keep deer out of the garden. Photo by Olivia McClure/LSU AgCenter

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Two girls hoist a watering can during a gardening and nutrition lesson taught by LSU AgCenter agent Layne Langley at the Bains Lower Elementary School garden in St. Francisville on March 21. Photo by Olivia McClure/LSU AgCenter

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Children crowd around a planting bed as LSU AgCenter agent Layne Langley, at right in apron, gives instructions on how to plant tomatoes at the Bains Lower Elementary School garden in St. Francisville on March 21. Photo by Olivia McClure/LSU AgCenter

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