Fighting food insecurity through community gardening

BARGERSVILLE – In first grade, there’s really nothing better than a sleepover or having your teacher take your class outside for part of the school day.

WRTV stopped by Walnut Grove Elementary School in Bargersville on a day when first graders got to do both.

Stephanie Dodson’s freshman class gathered around a plowed patch of land with eager faces and lots of energy.

Farm manager Kent Grose caught their attention by holding corn and dirt as he taught the class how to plant popcorn seeds.

“There’s water in the popcorn seeds and they pop and they need a lot of sun,” student Olivia Nicholas said. “So you dig a hole and then you put two seeds in each of them and then you bury them with the soil.”

His classmate Mark Bohnert also paid attention to the outdoor science lesson,

“They need soil, water, maybe a little sun, eventually,” Bohnert said, as he stood in line to help his friends dig holes and plant their seeds.

The entire learning project is being put together by a new local non-profit organization called The Well Watered Gardens of Johnson County.

This is their second year working with Walnut Grove students. Last year they planted tomatoes, but this year it’s all about popcorn.

Marcia Duke is the founder and visionary of the organization and she approached the district with her idea for this outdoor learning lab, which she plans to expand in the coming years.

“Kids can go out and pick the popcorn in the fall,” Duke said. “Put it in a brown paper bag and take it home and microwave it. It’s like they saw it. They planted it. They take it home. They consume it.”

She shows students maps of the United States to link social studies learning and explains what kinds of agricultural practices and cultures Native Americans cultivated on this land here in Hoosier State, and how we can still use these gardening and farming methods today.

But the mission behind The Well Watered Gardens of Johnson County runs much deeper.

“The mission of The Well Watered Gardens of Johnson County is to help relieve hunger in Johnson County,” Duke said. “We started with two gardens last year and are up to 8 this year.”

These gardens are found here in Walnut Grove as well as other local churches, neighborhoods and schools and Duke said they plan to continue to grow.

Fresh food and produce from their community gardens can help empower communities with limited access to fresh, affordable food and provide produce to local food pantries that serve our neighbors in need.

She said they were collecting data on the location of food deserts in the county and going to those neighborhoods to do prayer walks, sharing their love of God and gardening, while getting to the root of All the problems.

It is part of the national mission, The Well Watered Gardens, whose founder has set a goal of more than 1 million gardens in 10 years.

Here at Center Grove Schools, many students live in subdivisions that are popping up all over the growing community. Some of these communities do not allow gardens.

This space in Walnut Grove uses the area of ​​the district’s youngest elementary school to learn and grow. Students are not only exposed to something new, like gardening, but they also get a taste of the school district’s past, which is rooted in agriculture.

“The world is a classroom and there’s so much we can learn by going outside, observing and getting our hands dirty,” said teacher Stephanie Dodson.

She says what they do here today touches on so many parts of their classroom curriculum.

“Right now they’re, two inches or three inches, and two seeds in there,” she said.

And Walnut Grove Principal Brian Proctor said it was a great partnership for the school and a unique opportunity for their students to learn and grow.

“Understanding real life, putting the book into real life, and seeing things really grow,” Proctor says. “We always say any space is a learning space, so we want to make sure kids can get dirty and do fun things.”

If you want to learn more about the Johnson County WWG, you can follow them on Facebook.