By Andrew Gardner for Ledger Dispatch | Mar 10, 2023
School gardents

In 2021, the Farms of Amador (FOA) community organization started a Seed Project Grant Award program for Amador county schools and students. Schools can receive up to $500.00 to build new school gardens or expand existing garden areas to create garden education outdoor learning spaces and help with campus beautification. Almost every school in Amador county has been awarded this opportunity. We want to congratulate the following schools for applying and receiving the 2023 FOA Seed Project awards this year; Amador High School, Independence High School, Plymouth Elementary, Jackson Elementary, Pioneer Elementary, and Jackson Junior High School!

Since the Seed Project launched, it has created many opportunities for our Amador community groups and leaders to come together and support this engaging and exciting learning for our students. Master Gardeners has partnered with schools and a garden consultant has been assigned to a school site to assist in garden education activities and education this Spring. Amador county Public Health leaders have also joined the partnership and offer additional resources and support that will encourage healthy living education and activities. Amador county schools also utilize a Nutrition Educator from the University of California Cooperative Extension program. The nutrition educator has been assigned to specific school sites to teach students about the importance of nutrition and health. School gardens offer a great outdoor classroom for nutrition education.

There are many benefits to incorporating school gardens in the learning programs of our schools and there has been a vast amount of research conducted that supports the inclusion of school garden programs and education at school. In terms of social and emotional development of students, benefits include (but are not limited to) physical activity, responsibility and independence, self-confidence, teamwork, communication, and healthy lifestyles. Educational benefits include student understanding in biological and life sciences, environmental literacy, food systems and agriculture, and can enhance math and language arts curriculum in outdoor learning activities and experiences. By utilizing school gardens in our learning programs, we establish a strong foundation for our students to grow, thrive and achieve at high levels academically and teach strong social emotional skills that help them navigate and manage their lives as they mature and become adults.

Amador County Public Schools has a robust Career and Technical Education (CTE) program starting in 4th grade. CTE provides learning pathways through a sequence of courses and programs that give students the knowledge and skills they need to lead successful careers in certain industry fields. Getting students into the dirt through school gardens helps them understand the life cycles of plants and the importance of healthy soils, the very foundation of agricultural education. These early experiences in school gardens can spark a lifelong commitment to protect and support our agricultural industries in Amador county.

The FOA Board consists of eight community leaders, farmers, and educators. With hundreds of members, this community organization is committed to supporting our agricultural community and promoting agricultural education in our schools. In addition to the Seed Project, the FOA hosts an annual Amador Farm Tour and Dinner, conducts Farm tours for Amador county students, supports the Amador Farmers Market Association, and partners with schools and other community organizations to organize the annual Farm Day for Amador county 3rd graders.

For more information about the Farms of Amador, please visit their website at https://amadorfarmersmarket.com/about-foa and find out how to become a member and join the exciting network of Amador farmers, educators, and community leaders in agriculture.

Editors note: Andrew Gardner is the CTE Coordinator for the Amador County Unified School District.