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Suffolk receives two Agriculture in the Classroom grants

Suffolk students will have new opportunities to learn about agriculture while remaining virtual as well as after returning to the classroom.

Lakeland High School and Suffolk Public Schools received grants from Agriculture in the Classroom. These were two grants out of the 62 awarded to 44 Virginia localities.

Agriculture in the Classroom is a non-profit that focuses on connecting children to where their food and local needs originate. Branching from this also exposes the students to multiple careers that go into the supply chain of getting food from farms to the customer.

“The importance is really showing itself now during this pandemic as there’s trouble getting to stores, but you can grow food at home,” said Tammy Maxey, the Virginia Agriculture in the Classroom programs director.

According to Maxey, each grant winner received a maximum of $500 for a small project related to gardening, animal agriculture, STEM, health, nutrition or leadership development. When giving out grants this year, how the projects would tie into virtual learning was considered.

Lakeland High School received a high school grant for its school garden. In this garden, students grow food to donate to food banks and homeless shelters.

“We really love that Lakeland is expanding the garden to meet needs in the community,” said Maxey. “This is a great high school-based project, and it is set to launch in January.”

Suffolk Public Schools is using the money for a three-fold project. There will be a pizza garden, a compost station and an agricultural library. These resources will allow instructors to factor agriculture into many areas of the curriculum, including science and even language arts.

“We will first start out in the winter learning about composting and how to make rich soil that will be great for planting and growth,” said Katelyn Leitner, supervisor of science instruction at Suffolk Public Schools. “Next, we will move on to preparing our garden and talking about what things we need in order to have a successful garden. The next phase of our project is going to be growing things we need in order to make a pizza. We will discuss the types of plants we will be growing, watching them grow and making sure their needs are taken care of.”

Instead of just being one school or grade level, this pizza garden will be available for all Suffolk Public Schools’ elementary and middle schools. There will be weekly recorded and live sessions for the students until they return in person to take a hands-on approach to the garden.

“This will instill a love for learning as well as learn about observation,” said Maxey. “It’s all about showing children where their food comes from and the value of it.”