Dynamic Gardens and Hands-On Education
Each year, students from West Middle School are hired as Merc Co+op employees to work alongside our experienced garden staff from April through December. Through the season, they'll learn all of the skills to begin, maintain, and clean up the production garden, as well as building social and professional skills at their first job.
All produce at our gardens is grown organically. In addition to regular crop rotation and cover crop integration, we utilize trap cropping methods and solarization to deter pests and maintain soil health. This past year, we also committed to minimizing tillage.
Our goal when the garden at West Middle School began was to get the produce grown by the students to their classmates. In 2017, over 4,000 samples made with produce from the garden like fresh raspberries with yogurt, butternut squash burritos, and popcorn were provided!
All of the produce from our second garden project at First Step at Lake View goes directly to the kitchen at that facility. Over 600 pounds of produce were provided for their meals this first summer.
Investing in the Future
In 2017, Community Mercantile Education Foundation (CMEF) created the Garden Assistant track. For the first time, student leaders who began with the project in middle school could continue growing with the garden through their senior year in high school. Our goal is to prepare students for whatever their futures hold.
After their work in the gardens, our students have gone on to accomplish some amazing things.
West Middle School Garden Enters 10th Season, Commits to Donating all Produce to Just Food
On March 15, student gardeners at West Middle School planted potatoes, onions, lettuce, and cabbage with a greater purpose to their work: helping ensure families in need have healthy food in Lawrence. Through a new partnership, Just Food, the food bank for Lawrence and Douglas County, will visit the garden three times a week throughout the growing season to pick up the freshly harvested produce to add to the shelves of the food bank.
Just Food’s pantry is open Tuesday through Friday, 9am-1pm and 2pm-6pm at 1000 E. 11th St in Lawrence. According to Elizabeth Keever, Executive Director, Just Food served nearly 13,000 individuals in 2017 and distributed over 200,000 lbs. of fresh produce to families. All with the goal of making a positive impact on our community and improving it’s overall health.
Growing Food Growing Hope
growing food growing health garden video
This beautiful video of the school gardens premiered at The Merc Co+opAnnual Co-op Meeting last November. We hope this video will become a resource for building school gardens in the local area and region.
We would love for you to share this with your family and friends - you can also find an abbreviated version of this video on the GFGH Facebook page.
A huge thank you to Matty D Media LLC for their talents in filming and producing this video.