Date: Oct 08, 2013
Rachael Barkley plants basil with Alice Byrne Elementary student

Recently, five Yuma schools received $1,500 from Western Growers Foundation to grow and sustain their fruits and veggie learning gardens:  Alice Byrne Elementary, Kofa High School, St. Francis of Assisi Elementary, Gowan Science Academy and Yuma Lutheran School. 

Rachel and Robby Barkley of Barkley Ag joined the ground breaking at Alice Byrne on September 27, 2013.  “Our country,” said Robby Barkley, as he addressed Ms. Jones’ fourth grade class, “grows more food than any other country in the world.  With this garden, you have a wonderful opportunity to experience how that is done.  There is a great future in farming, if you apply yourself.”

Principal Peach told the fourth graders that they would learn, among other things, photosynthesis and while a little advanced for fourth grade, Ms. Peach was certain the students were up for the challenge.

Rachael Barkley and Paula Olson, Vice President of Marketing for Western Growers, went on to visit the other schools, including Gary Knox Elementary who also had a planting party that day.

Ms. Garcia of Kofa High School and her students have cleared the ground to plan broccoli, fruit trees, cucumbers and a host of other crops. Focusing on the Special Education Transition Program, Ms. Garcia will work with her special needs students to build skills for after high school, including time management, self-advocacy, and cooking.

Each of these schools is supported by a local farmer and Western Growers member.  Barkley Ag, JV Farms, The Growers Company, Pasquinelli Produce, Tanimura & Antle are all involved with the school gardens. 

“It’s a wonderful benefit,” said Paula Olson, “to have local farmers at the ready to support these gardens; farmers and their staff who can answer questions the teachers, students, and garden coordinators have about watering, pests, raised beds – whatever – and, who regularly come by to see how the students and gardens are doing.”

That gives Yuma a big edge on other cities to soon become the School Garden Capital of America.

On October 1, 2013, Western Growers Foundation was awarded a second $75,000 from the Arizona Department of Agriculture to give another 50 Arizona schools $1,500 each.  The grant application will be posted in spring 2014.  For more information visit where a newly published book, Arizona Gardens for Learning, can be downloaded for free.

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