Teachers get lessons on school gardens at workshop

Johnny Morgan  |  6/12/2018 2:46:48 PM

(06/12/18) BATON ROUGE, La. — Getting children to eat their vegetables may get a bit easier as schools implement gardens across East Baton Rouge Parish.

Teachers got a lesson on gardening at the LSU AgCenter Botanic Gardens at Burden on June 7 to get a better understanding of how to develop gardens on their campuses.

AgCenter horticulture and 4-H agents provided the information needed to get school gardens up and running in the parish.

AgCenter horticulture agent Lee Rouse showed the group how they can make their own raised beds without having to spend too much money.

“There are a number of different materials that can be used to make raised beds, but to keep expenses in check, wood boards and 4-by-4 posts may be your best choice,” he said. “Some people use old tires and a number of other materials, but some such as tires wouldn’t be recommended.”

East Baton Rouge 4-H agent Rochelle Wilking said one consideration when determining size and shape of the raised bed will be the age of the children involved in the project.

“You want to make sure that it’s not too wide so they can’t reach in and work the garden,” she said. “Also, you may need to make allowances for children with disabilities.”

If disabilities are a consideration, ensure the height can accommodate a wheelchair, she said.

LSU AgCenter fruit and vegetable specialist Kiki Fontenot explained some of the finer points of gardening, such as the reason chemicals and manures are not to be used in a children’s garden.

“I’m sure we can image what they will do when they start to pick the vegetables,” Fontenot said. “It could easily go straight from the plant into their mouths.”

Allison Guidroz, owner of Fullness Farms in Baton Rouge, shared with the group some of the successes and challenges she and her husband have encountered while starting an intensive small-scale vegetable farming operation that sells at farmers markets and to restaurants.

“We grow a mixture of greens, such as kale, collards and mustards, and we are moving into summer crops like eggplant, peppers, tomatoes and squash,” Guidroz said.

LSU AgCenter professor of horticulture and sustainable agriculture Carl Motsenbocker talked about some of the programs he’s been working with to help improve nutrition, such as a farm-to-school programs.

“Farm-to-school programs are important for schools to respond to the growing demand for locally sourced foods, increase the amount of Louisiana-grown products in school lunchrooms and expand marketing opportunities for Louisiana producers and food businesses, such as food processors, manufacturers and distributors,” he said.

In addition, farm-to-school activities support education efforts such as nutrition, food literacy, healthy eating, school gardens, field trips to local farms, school visits by farmers and cooking classes.

Other speakers included AgCenter 4-H agent Jessie Hayden and East Baton Rouge Master Gardener school and community garden chairperson Kitty Bull, who explained how each organization can advance school garden programs.

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LSU AgCenter horticulture agent Lee Rouse discusses the proper way to construct raised beds at a school garden workshop held June 7 at the LSU AgCenter Botanic Gardens at Burden. Photo by Johnny Morgan/LSU AgCenter

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LSU AgCenter horticulture agent Lee Rouse explains the proper way to collect a soil sample at a school garden workshop held June 7 at the LSU AgCenter Botanic Gardens at Burden. Photo by Johnny Morgan/LSU AgCenter

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