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Signal Knob pupils learn 'value added' agri-business

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Ryan Day, a seventh-grade pupil in Jaclyn Roller's agriscience class at Signal Knob Middle School, prepares flowers on Monday for a Mother's Day sale. Alex Bridges/Daily

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Ryan Day and Nathan Hershey, seventh-graders in Jaclyn Roller's agriscience class at Signal Knob Middle School, flank Future Farmers of America volunteer Forrest Payne, as pupils on Monday prepare flowers for a Mother's Day sale. Alex Bridges/Daily

By Alex Bridges -- abridges@nvdaily.com

STRASBURG -- Pupils at Signal Knob Middle School imay soon earn some "green" with their green thumbs.

The agricultural science classes taught by Jaclyn Roller plan to restore the vegetable garden at the school in a couple of weeks.

"It's just fun to plant stuff and then watch it grow and be able to --," eighth grade pupil Nathan Hershey said Monday at the garden site.

"Eat it," pupil Ryan Day chimed in. "That's why I like it. I love bein' able to eat the plants and I like growin' 'em. I just like working with my hands."

The garden plot at the school needs weeds removed and the soil tilled before planting can begin, according to Jeff Taylor, who works with agriculture classes in the county.

"We had a beautiful garden here a few years ago and there's just so much maintenance involved with it that we are trying to start that back up again and let the kids do a lot during school," Roller said.

As pupil Ryan Day noted, the garden needs work before the class can start growing vegetables.

"Then we're gonna plant it and watch it grow -- production to sales all the way through," said Forrest Payne, a volunteer with the Future Farmers of America.

This time Taylor and Roller plan to show pupils the "value added" approach to gardening.

Instead of only harvesting vegetables and taking the products to local farmers markets as they did in the past, Taylor said he hopes pupils can turn the tomatoes and peppers into salsa which they can then sell. As Taylor explained, the approach this year also incorporates "agrotourism" by linking locally grown and made products to the area's identity seen through tourism. Taylor noted that the class needs permission from the school to use the kitchen in order to make the salsa.

Roller pointed out that the classes already make apple butter from apples grown at the school which they then sell at festivals.

"We're just trying to have the students understand start-to-finish," Roller said. "If they have vegetables at home that they produce in their garden what they can actually do with it, extend that a little bit further than just the vegetable in its raw form."

The classes' approach to selling flowers for Mother's Day also differs this year with a focus on agrotourism, Taylor said. Pupils can learn to grow flowers in a greenhouse, put them in pots and then sell them either on their property or at farmers markets, Taylor said.

Roller noted that projects such as these teach children they can make products from home-grown agriculture in their spare time. The class on Monday prepared flowers by taking them out of planters and re-potting the plants in baskets for a Mother's Day sale. Pupils will sell the flowers in the 7-Eleven parking lot on U.S. 11 by the Interstate 81 interchange from May 11 to 13.

"I just hope that they will get a hands-on experience because a lot of these students they either don't have access to a garden at home or they have never had a chance to raise flowers, grow flowers, and they think, a lot of them think you go to a grocery store and voila it appears, and so we try really hard to give them these experiences so they more of an appreciation for agriculture and that they understand that it's not just cows, plows and sows," Roller said.

1 Comment

What a refreshing article about students learning to "connect" with Mother Nature. Growing plants and understanding the importance of a healthy diet can't be stressed enough. Understanding our partnership with planet Earth and all it can provide is more important than ever.

Today many of our youth are growing up eating greasy, unhealthy french fries as a vegetable of choice. Fat, sugar and salt is the basic diet being offered to children and already the consequences are obvious with the rise of obesity and health problems.

Kids need to be inspired and learn about real food (not processed or junk food). Sounds like a wonderful class that can teach on many levels. Put your produce out there - I'll buy! Way to go! :)

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