Lost River Junior/Senior High School has been awarded a $10,000 Farm to School grant for projects that will provide hands-on learning and grow food for more than 550 area students.
The projects funded by the new grant will increase the amount of fresh, school-grown produce in Lost River, Merrill and Malin cafeterias, allow agricultural technology students to participate in planting, maintaining, and harvesting crops, and make it possible to grow food in greenhouses during the winter months.
Meghan Miller, agricultural science and technology teacher and FFA advisor at Lost River, designed and wrote the proposal for the competitive Oregon Department of Education funding.
“By allowing students to grow their own produce, they are learning skills about gardening which will hopefully increase the likelihood they will garden on their own in the future,” Miller said.
Jamie Ongman, Lost River Junior/Senior High School principal, said the grant will bring 21st century farming and gardening technology into classrooms and enable schools to serve high-quality fresh food to students.
“When students have a part in making something happen it means more,” he said. “This grant will broaden our capabilities of serving ‘student-grown’ products. It will provide life-long learning opportunities that not only make students healthier today, but also healthier adults as they put these skills into practice down the road.”
The grant has three parts. Funds will be used to:
n Purchase Tower Gardens, vertical hydroponic growing systems, for each school to grow fresh herbs and leafy greens for their cafeterias. Students will be involved in planting and harvesting of the fresh produce.
n Buy a robotic gardener (called a FarmBot), and the lumber and supplies needed to build a raised garden bed structure at Lost River. Lost River students will be able to compare the two growing systems — conventional versus use of cutting-edge technology — and share that knowledge through video and other means with students at the elementary schools. The produce will be served in all three schools’ cafeterias. The school already has one FarmBot, which is being used on an elevated garden bed that can be transported for educational purposes.
■ Install a greenhouse frame donated to the high school, and purchase a plastic covering, hardware, and ventilation. Since Klamath County has such a short growing season, the new greenhouse will allow Lost River students to participate in gardening projects year-round and provide fresh produce for all three schools. The school currently has two greenhouses that grow plants for resale.
The new project will supplement a robust Farm to School program that provides beef, pork, eggs, and produce to the school’s cafeteria. Miller’s agriculture and FFA students also raise steer, lamb, pigs, and chickens and operate two greenhouses, selling vegetable starts and flowers to the public. Their eggs are sold at Martin’s Food Center in Merrill. This spring, Lost River raised and sold 15 piglets to community members. The school cares for 11 sheep and each spring sells baby lambs. Plans are to raise beef again in its pasture.
Miller said Lost River FFA will use some of its recent income from the various projects to donate meat and eggs to families in need.
This is the third award Miller’s FFA and agriculture students have won in the past month. Lost River FFA won first place and a $1,000 prize from Oregon Ag Fest. The organization recognizes groups and individuals working to bridge the urban-rural divide by teaching communities about farming and ranching. The group won second place in Oregon FFA’s Oregon Agriculture in the Classroom Ag Youth Awareness competition.
All schools in the Klamath County School District participate in Farm to School programs in partnership with Oregon State University-Klamath Basin Research and Extension Center. Two state grants provide educational opportunities and help procure Oregon-grown produce for cafeterias. The district also is completing the first year of a two-year $96,000 USDA Farm to School grant. That grant, in part, funds a coordinator who is working with Klamath Basin farmers and producers to bring more local foods into school cafeterias.