A plentiful harvest

Potatoes and green beans and squash, oh my! Petal Primary School students are looking forward to their spring harvest and making a little profit from the fruits of their labor.

Last week, students in Vicki Grinnell’s second grade class took to their class garden to check out their spring bounty and collect some squash, banana peppers, green beans and potatoes from it. All of what they collected in their individual bags got to go home with them afterward.

“Green beans for dinner!” Grinnell laughed as her students walked away from the garden with their bags filled to the brim with the vegetable.

Grinnell said she was dividing up the day’s work to send home with students. She said they will soon begin picking to invite faculty and staff in the school district to come by and purchase the class’ vegetables.

Last semester, Grinnell’s class harvested over 50 cabbages along with broccoli, onions, kale and turnip greens. The students grew such an abundance of produce that they were able to sell it to parents, faculty and staff by taking orders.

The funds are intended for the purchase of gardening or classroom supplies. However, Petal Primary principal Tessa Trimm said in the aftermath of the January tornado, the class decided to donate the proceeds from their previous harvest – a total of $305 –  to the Petal Education Foundation (PEF) special Tornado Relief Fund to help students and staff who were impacted by the storm. 

“Through the garden, students learn the life cycle of all things," Grinnell said. “And this is just another way they can see the ways people are interdependent. We received donations to create a garden, and now through the fruits of our labor, we can turn around and give money back to the community that first gave to us.”

The garden began in 2011, thanks to the efforts of Grinnell, her parents Bobby and Dorothy Fennell and parent volunteers. Before, she would take her classes on a field trip to her father’s farm.

“They loved it so much, so my dad asked why we didn’t build a garden on campus,” Grinnell said.

Her father visited the school and plowed the garden and helped Grinnell put it together.

“My dad continues to do the plowing and tells us what to plant and how to care for it,” she said.

However, after a while she said the garden became hard to manage due to a lack of equipment needed to keep deer out and a way to irrigate.

At the beginning of the 2016-17 school year, PEF gave the class a $1,000 grant to purchase a solar-powered charger and electric fence supplies, soaker hoses and other irrigation equipment, plants and books to go along with the garden lessons. 

“I use the garden experience to teach collaboration, life science and authentic literacy skills,” Grinnell said.

Trimm said the garden is a way to teach students life skills that reach beyond basic subjects and allows students to learn outside of the classroom.

“Often times we think about our role as educators being to teach reading and math, but it is equally important to teach our students, especially young students, the importance of serving others,” Trimm said. “Grinnell is teaching her students so many life skills through this gardening project.”

While Grinnell’s class is the only one that works the garden, she said numerous other teachers bring their students to observe and write about what they see. Petal Primary teacher of the year Lisa Jenkins often brings her special needs class to visit, especially during pumpkin season.