Students at Greensboro Elementary are learning about horticulture and healthy eating through their collard green plasticulture project. Alabama has one of the nation’s highest diabetes and obesity rates and this trend will not reverse on its own. This project addresses two of the most important influences on children’s health: the value of exercise and proper nutrition.
The project’s major goals are: 1) Horticultural education, 2) exercise during the planting and maintaining of the crop, 3) providing a nutritious meal to the whole school and 4) nutritional education. The success of this program is reliant on the investment of the children in the collard crop through their work and horticultural education so they will be interested in eating the fresh greens and also listening to and retaining the nutritional information.
Alabama Department of Agriculture & Industries Commissioner Ron Sparks commended the students at Greensboro Elementary for taking steps to a healthier life by growing their own lush, delicious collard greens.
"I am so proud Principal Stephanie Richey had the foresight to let the kids take on this project," said Sparks. "I know it has taught them a lot about hard work, horticulture and nutrition. I know they can’t wait to try some at lunch on Thursday."
In early September, Harold McLemore with the Department of Agriculture and Industries put down approximately 1,000 feet of plasticulture in the playground of Greensboro Elementary School. In mid-September, the children helped by punching the holes in the plastic. Then about 40 students of Greensboro Elementary planted about 900 collard green plants. The children then participated through the growing season in horticultural and physical activities in maintaining the crop. These activities included measuring the growth of collard leaves, taking soil temperatures, weed-pulling and putting straw in the middle of the rows for weed control.
According to McLemore, "We’re trying to hide a nutrition program in a fun farm project. So far, I think we have succeeded."
On Wednesday, October 27, at 9 a.m., the Department staff, with the help of the children, harvested much of the crop from the field. Those collards were chopped and delivered to the lunch room to be washed and cooked.
On Thursday, October 28, the cooked collards were served to the whole school. During the serving of the collards, HERO and Seeds of Hope gave a PowerPoint presentation showing pictures of the children working the crop and important nutritional information.
Extra collards were sold to the public starting on Friday the 29th all through the season. The funds collected will be used to keep the garden project sustainable for the next year.
Participants who have helped the students at Greensboro Elementary in their efforts in this project include: Alabama Strategic Alliance for Health Program, Sowing Seeds of Hope, Hale Empowerment Revitalization Organization (HERO) and the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries.