PORTSMOUTH, R.I. (WJAR) — A program teaches Portsmouth students where our food comes from, and organizers hope to expand its reach to the rest of Aquidneck Island.
The 2-year-old Portsmouth AgInnovation Farm is already making a mark on the community.
Sarah Churgin is the district manager with the Eastern Rhode Island Conservation District. The organization and the Portsmouth School District partnered to educate students about where their food comes from every day.
"Believe it or not, there are kids who are in middle school, who think that food comes from a grocery store," said Churgin. "So, we really wanted to develop a program where kids would be starting from seeds to watching plants grow, to the weeding, to the watering, everything that's involved with being a farmer."
The student-driven program's primary focus is to get kids outside and educate them around sustainable agriculture.
Churgin said Margie Brennan, the Portsmouth K-8 science coach, works with the kids during the after-school classes that use science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics -- or STEAM -- teaching.
"[We ask them,] 'What do you think should be on a farm?'" said Churgin. "They came up with irrigation, they came up with a high tunnel, they came up with deer fencing, they came up with composting."
The farm sits on the Cloverbud Ranch in Portsmouth.
Churgin said the students drew a diagram of the design they used for their 6 acres of land on the property.
"If you can see it, this is our deer fencing which was just completed yesterday, and so obviously by the name, it's to keep the deer out," said Churgin. "Last year the kids planted corn, and the deer really had a field day with it, so really happy that this is up."
The students grow tomatoes, zucchini, and other produce. They will harvest them to help others.
"All the stuff that has been grown here so far has been donated to food pantries all over the island, to St. John's Food Pantry and to Lucy's Hearth -- that's in Middletown, "said Churgin. "So, it's teaching kids about giving to those who do not have, who have less than they do."
There is a six-week summer camp, $30 family farm plots available now for rent to community members, and after-school classes in the fall.
They are also looking for more funding to continue the program and hopefully expand to the rest of the island.
If you would like to learn more about how to get involved with the program visit the Eastern Rhode Island Conservation District website.