OAKLEAF – Over the course of 10 years, the agriculture beds at Oakleaf High became worn and rickety. Time, sun and rain turned once-sturdy beams into crumbled heaps that turned agriscience classes …
OAKLEAF – Over the course of 10 years, the agriculture beds at Oakleaf High became worn and rickety. Time, sun and rain turned once-sturdy beams into crumbled heaps that turned agriscience classes into construction lessons.
Now the school can afford to replace all of them.
Career and Technical Education teacher Victoria Gwaltney secured a $3,000 grant from the Whole Foods Foundation to replace the beds. The overhaul was overdue – and much appreciated.
“We’ve got 16 full-size beds and then some different ones we call rounds,” Gwaltney said. “It’s a recycled culvert from a ditch that we used to raise off the ground and grow other fruits and vegetables, herbs, and things.
“The whole garden has been here since the first or second year since the school opened. So since like 2012, all that stuff out there is hidden, the 10-year mark. It’s fallen apart pretty badly and splintering. It was getting a little dangerous.
“We’ve had to focus a lot on finding money to refurbish the raised bed garden. Now we have the money to actually do something.”
The agriscience program is thriving at Oakleaf. In addition to beds used to grow flowers, herbs and vegetables, the school has a greenhouse and livestock barn.
Sophomore Jasmine Conliffe said learning how to build a new bed, not just maintain it, is something she’s eager to learn.
“I just think it’s a really good opportunity because learning how to plant stuff,” she said. “For me, it’s really fun. I like the fact that you can learn while planting stuff at school. Over the summer, I came out and helped pull weeds and made sure that we turned over crops.
“I don’t know how they did that before. It’s a classroom out there. I think it’ll be a lot better now that we have new stuff.”
Oakleaf is the second high school in the county to earn grant money. Ridgeview High received a $5,000 ProStart Grow Grant from Rachael Ray’s foundation two months ago. The money was designated to promote the school’s culinary program.
Gwaltney said she applied for the grant last February. She said she applied for the same grant a year ago, but the application was rejected.
“They told us they liked our request, and they kind of suggested if we kept applying, we’d get it,” she said.
The school was notified of the award a couple of weeks ago.
The agriscience program is so popular at Oakleaf that master gardeners and garden clubs are frequent guests. Everything grown attracts butterflies and is given away to hungry families.
“We send a lot of stuff home with the kids,” Gwaltney said.
Conliffe said she didn’t know some organizations were willing to help.
“I didn’t know you could apply for school grants,” she said. “I never really questioned where that money came from. That’s good for future knowledge.”
Despite the deterioration, Oakleaf earned the “People’s Garden” designation from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Conliffe said her attraction to agriscience is based on a desire to find ways to grow things in restricted spaces.
“The class teaches about garden spaces in an urban area,” she said. “That’s cool because we have so little space here, and it’s so much fun. You can do raised beds at my house if you have the stuff to do it – and you want to do it.”