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Posted: April 17, 2014 10:00 p.m.

Reach for their roots

Students will plant and harvest their own healthy snacks

Kayla Robins/

Recess was over, but a group of Middle Ridge Elementary School second-graders was still outside, accompanied by teachers and even the principal. And there was nothing but encouragement.

The Newton County Farm Bureau donated a “hoop house,” a rounded, plastic-covered greenhouse, to Middle Ridge Elementary, and students were able to go inside and see it for the first time on Wednesday. The hoop house is the result of the NCFB’s Agriculture in the Classroom program, which began in 2010 as a monthly class and has grown into volunteer visits at least twice a week and this real-life application.

The program’s goal is to teach students about agriculture and where their food comes from, as opposed to simply seeing it on grocery store shelves and their dinner plates.

“It’s another way to get the background in because they can’t see farms in the city,” said Middle Ridge Principal Michael Forehand.

Forehand also said he wants to see more females and African Americans enter science fields in later schooling, and teaching kids about agriculture in a hands-on experience at such an early stage may help.

Shanna Powell, a special education teacher and STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) committee member, explained to the students how the soil is warmed by incoming solar radiation.

“Feel the soil,” Powell instructed. “Feel how hot it is?”

Air warmed by the heat from interior surfaces is retained in the building by the enclosed roof and walls. Soil kept in a raised bed within wood walls provides better growing soil and is easier to reach.

Students will grow their own vegetable and fruit plants throughout the year in the 14-by-24-by-10 structure, which should be ready to harvest by next spring. They will only grow self-pollinating plants because bees cannot get into the hoop house to complete pollination processes.

“This will allow for us to reach many more students than we ever have before and teach those students with hands on activities about the hard work and dedication farmers put into growing their food,” said County President Keith Mitcham in a press release.

NCFB volunteers designed lessons for each grade level. American Farm Bureau, AgSouth Farm Credit and Tractor Supply Co. partnered with NCFB to fund the hoop house, and the Young Farmer Committee built the structure.

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