Eaton County 4-H member installs gardens and grows herbs for school food programs

Funding from the 4-H Wal-Mart Youth Voice, Youth Choice grant jumpstarts herb growing project at Olivet Public Schools.

In the fall of 2011, Dalton Humphrey, an Eaton County high school student and active Michigan State University Extension Michigan 4-H member, applied for a 4-H Wal-Mart Youth Voice, Youth Choice grant and was awarded $5,000. Over the past year, Humphrey has worked with both the Eaton Rapids Public Schools and Olivet Public Schools to deliver messages of nutrition, healthy food choices, food system awareness, and vegetable and herb gardening, and helped students understand the new U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) MyPlate icon.

In Eaton Rapids, Humphrey’s grant, labor and presentations brought seven raised-bed gardens, seven indoor grow labs and classroom presentations to more than 140 students and teachers at Lockwood Elementary. The students were able to plant, grow and learn about the vegetables from the gardens and grow labs. Two additional grow labs were recently purchased for the alternative high school.

Humphrey transferred to Olivet Public Schools at the start of the 2012 school year and is working with the high school agriscience teacher and FFA adviser, Doug Pennington, and food service director Karla Love on a project to grow five varieties of herbs. The herbs will then be harvested and integrated into the food served in the school cafeteria.

Grant funding was used to purchase tower gardens – vertical hydroponic structures – that will be used to grow the herbs. Humphrey is also creating video feed for the school television channel to promote the Olivet Schools farm-to-school efforts and the fresh herbs being used in the food service program.

Preliminary discussions have been held to expand offerings to the school food service programs in Eaton Rapids and Potterville. This may include a partnership with the Charlotte High School agriscience program, which recently planted hydroponically grown greens.

In November, Humphrey, along with staff members at Olivet High School, will be hosting a tour and lunch, complete with fresh herbs, for community and state officials.

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