Growing Success

Article Published: Jun. 9, 2011 | Modified: Sep. 7, 2011
Growing Success

Karee Mackey, right, with N.C. Cooperative Extension discusses beneficial insects at Community Garden Day.

Photo submitted

The past decade has witnessed substantial growth in the number of school gardens in the U.S., led by the state of California, which has called for a garden in every school.

Currently, Mabel Elementary is leading school gardening projects in Watauga County. Shannon Carroll, technology facilitator, has organized interested teachers and written for grants.

A Bright Ideas grant through Blue Ridge Electric was received last fall to build a greenhouse and start outdoor garden plots with middle-school students. Students in the afterschool program will utilize the greenhouse, as well. Carroll has submitted additional grant applications for needed equipment and supplies.

Students from grades 3 through 8 rotated through educational stations on Friday and learned about a variety of garden related issues. Volunteers from the N.C. Cooperative Extension, the Wellness Center, Appalachian State University, Watauga County, Earth Fare, Audubon Society, landscape architect Robert Oelberg and bee expert Brett Butler presented information and activities pertaining to all aspects of gardening.

Most importantly, there was a groundbreaking ceremony for the soon-to-be constructed SunCatcher greenhouse, with expert Terry Carroll discussing the project with the children.

Using produce grown in the garden, students will prepare yummy, fresh food that will be connected to their curriculum. Parents, local chefs and dieticians will be invited to work with students and promote healthy eating habits and choices.

School gardening may be utilized to teach most any subject. Students will use mathematic skills to help plan and design the gardens. They will determine correct angles, lengths and areal coverage of plant beds, and proper spacing of plants within beds. Social studies students will research the cultural and historical implications of certain crops as they relate to their curriculum, such as maize for Central and South American culture. In science, students will explore water usage, nutrient cycling, microbial communities, climate and crops, nutrition and healthy eating habits.

To help other schools develop strong gardening projects, they are documenting the development of the project through photos and documents and plan to create a virtual timeline and story to be hosted on the school website.

Additionally, the gardens could serve as model for a local tour of outdoor learning environments. Other schools and teachers will be welcome to visit the site to learn more about the project. Teachers involved in the project will pursue opportunities to share what they have learned through professional learning networks, blogs, and conference presentations.

Isn't it great to see creative thinking outside of the traditional classroom? Way to go, Mabel!

This recipe (for a quick and easy appetizer or snack) was demonstrated by Blue Ridge Women in Agriculture at the farmers' market last weekend. Impressive presentation!

Spring Chèvre Bruschetta

Ingredients (15 servings)

1/4 lb spinach greens
1/8 lb mustard or spicy greens mix
1 cup chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
1 baguette cut in 1/2" slices
8 oz container of chèvre (goat cheese)
Balsamic vinegar

On medium to medium-high, heat 1/2 of the olive oil in a cast-iron skillet or other frying pan.
Add the chopped onion.
Sauté for about a minute or until the onion begins to look translucent.
Add garlic.
Sauté for another 30 seconds.
Add the greens. They may be either whole leaf or chopped.
Cook greens until wilted, stirring them into the garlic and onions and adding more olive oil as needed.

Remove from heat.

Add salt and pepper to taste.

Spread a layer of chèvre on each baguette slice.

Top with a small forkful of greens, onions, and garlic and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar. Enjoy!

Margie Mansure, M.S., R.D. is a registered dietitian/nutritionist and extension agent with N.C. Cooperative Extension. She offers personalized classes to improve the health of citizens in Watauga County through worksites, schools and community groups and is the local food coordinator for Watauga County. To contact Margie, e-mail or call (828) 264-3061.

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