Plans have had to be altered multiple times along the way, but that hasn’t stopped the Baldwin County School District’s school garden effort from taking on a life of its own.
A’Keti Mayweather, the school system’s wellness coordinator, is the driving force behind the project that has up to this point received more than $40,000 in donations. Once complete, the garden, which will be located adjacent to Baldwin High School, will provide students with new hands-on agricultural learning opportunities and experiences.
One hurdle the Baldwin Grows initiative faced was slopped terrain. That has since been combatted by terracing the land into three tiers, or zones, which will each serve as bases for different kinds of growing in the future. Georgia Power has also since partnered with the agricultural education project to provide $10,000 worth of fencing to keep students’ future crops safe from deer and other would-be eaters. Mayweather told Baldwin County Board of Education members Tuesday that Baldwin High’s construction class is set to soon begin building raised beds that will be placed within the garden’s first tier. That tier will also feature elevated raised beds to make them more easily accessible to students with disabilities. Plans state that the second will have row gardens while the third will house strawberries, blackberries, pole beans and other crops.
Perhaps the most exciting part of the project for the local school district is the amount of community buy-in that has already taken place. Businesses and individuals — both local and based out of town — have donated $41,545 in cash, gift cards, or in-kind contributions toward the Baldwin Grows effort since April.
“Almost every day we get some kind of in-kind contribution, so we are just so thrilled about how the community — not only our close-knit community here in Baldwin County — has accepted this project, but community members far and wide who just love the idea of young people being able to go out and grow their own food,” Mayweather told the BOE.
Those who aren’t giving cash or gift cards for the project have donated seeds, many bags of soil, and building supplies.
The wellness coordinator said she hopes to see the first tier fully planted by the end of October. The Baldwin Grows update was not the only good news Mayweather touted in her 15-minute presentation to board members. She revealed that Baldwin County School Nutrition was recently announced as a Golden Radish Award winner at the platinum level once again. Awarded by nonprofit Georgia Organics, the Golden Radish Award is given to school districts that excel in farm-to-school efforts by conducting taste tests of locally-grown food with students, offering locally-grown items on school menus, having edible gardens on school grounds, and meeting other requirements. This marks the third year Baldwin County has been awarded the Golden Radish at the platinum level, which is the highest level one can achieve. The local school system did so by far exceeding all the requirements.
“We are very excited about being platinum winners once again because of the 10 criteria you have to meet the gold standards for all those criteria, which we were able to do,” said Mayweather.