Gardening at an early age

Jun. 21, 2013 @ 05:12 AM

Cooking, gardening and feeding chickens aren’t just jobs for farmers during the summer, they are also jobs for the Pinnacle Elementary School 4-H club.

The club, which began in 2011, is for children that live near or attend Pinnacle Elementary School. According to the club’s Facebook page, it was created to enrich the lives of its members through partnerships, mentors and agriculture. Cindy Dotson is the club coordinator.

“Our usual days include a meeting and parliamentary procedures and then we start doing our jobs like taking care of the chickens, replanting the garden and fencing the garden. We want to fence the garden so we can turn the chickens loose this summer,” Dotson said.

In 2012, the school applied and received an Agriculture Sustainable Agriculture Project (ASAP) Farm-to-School grant which enabled them to grow foods in their school garden. The school also has their own chickens and student-run poultry business, Pinnacle Poultry Products, which was made possible by donations from Smithway, Inc., Chick Transport Systems and Case Farms. The club is working throughout the summer to manage the garden and the chicken coop.

“I like to work outside. My favorite thing is planting the garden and I like to eat the cucumbers,” said club member Brock Byrd.

The club is also planting more in the garden. Dotson received $500 from an anonymous donor to purchase fruit plants for the garden. The members have been working on planting grape vines and are planning to have blueberries, raspberries and apple trees.

“I got the call on New Year’s Eve about the donation. It was a wonderful surprise. All I had to do was pick out what fruit plants we wanted,” Dotson said. “The donor wanted us to have something to make the agriculture component at Pinnacle sustainable and last over the years.”

Along with taking care of the school’s garden and chickens, the students are also learning by doing projects. On Wednesday, members of the club were chopping cabbage that they grew in the garden and learning to make sauerkraut. Yanna Fishman, a volunteer who has worked with 4-H clubs for many years, taught the members the steps to making the food and gave them some history about it as well.

“This is my first day being here. It’s great. I’ve learned to cut cabbage and I had some fun,” said member Destiny Walker.

After each day, the members write about what they have learned in project books.

“They have hands-on learning including academics and do a tremendous amount of writing,” Dotson said. “They learn to set goals and they have many responsibilities that they all pile in and help with.”

The club is planning on getting two new leaders for first and second grade groups because it has been growing so quickly. Dotson is hoping that the club will continue to grow and she can eventually have leaders for each of the grade levels. Right now she said they have about 30 members.

For more information, like Pinnacle 4-H Club on Facebook. The club is also taking donations of old garden tools. Tools can be donated at the school or by calling Dotson at 828-289-9557.