Just eight months ago, a one-acre plot at the Denver Green School was an unused athletic field, but now that land has come to life with food-bearing vegetation.
"We have harvested over 3,000 pounds of produce from this ground. Lots of salad greens and root vegetables, tomatoes, eggplant, peppers," said Megan Caley, the programs and outreach coordinator for Sprout City Farms.
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Each week during harvest season, the farm produces 150 pounds of fresh, organic fruits and vegetables that end up in the school's cafeteria.
"Kids are eating healthier," said Frank Coyne, lead partner at the Denver Green School. "They are excited to eat the tomatoes on the salad bar, they are excited to eat the cucumbers."
Third-grader Justin Acosta said since the farm was built, he's eaten more vegetables during lunch,
"Because it makes you healthy, it comes from the farm and we grew it together," Justin said.
Building on the concept of community gardens on school grounds, Sprout City Farms created this project to introduce students to new foods and to show students where food comes from.
"One of my favorite parts was when we were digging the potatoes, and it's just really interesting to put my hands on the vegetables and stuff," said third-grader Stella Overby.
In addition to learning about agriculture, the farm helps teach other lessons as well.
"There are 180 kale plants here and they are in rows of three. So, we need to divide up 180 into three different groups," said third-grade teacher Kartal Jaquette, who took his class outside to the farm for a math lesson.
"We wanted to be able to connect the outside world, the real world, to what's happening inside the classroom," Coyne said.
"It's been extremely gratifying to see the kids out here. They are in constant awe and amazement of how food grows, and when they get to touch and really see how it happens, it's a huge experience for them both educationally and emotionally," said Chad Hagedorn, the farm manager for Sprout City Farms.
The farm was built at no cost to the Denver Green School. Sprout City Farms raised more than $20,000 for the project. Nearly half that amount came from "community supported agriculture" contracts, in which people pay a lump sum to receive fresh produce from the farm on a weekly basis.
The farm staff hopes the success at the Denver Green School inspires similar programs at other public schools.
"It's a very replicable model and it could spread like wildfire throughout the state and country," Caley said. "To turn this [land] into thousands and thousands of pounds of vegetables for the cafeteria is such a great use."
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