WOODSON BRANCH NATURE SCHOOL KEEPS GARDENS GROWING DESPITE SCHOOL CLOSURES

Woodson Branch Nature School, a 501(c)3 independent school located in Marshall NC, is on track to continue growing food for its families and the community during this year’s school closures. Produce grown on the school’s thirty-acre campus will be available to WBNS families and staff in a U-pick style, with the surplus offered to the Beacon of Hope Food Pantry and the local volunteer group ROAR (Rural Organizing and Resilience) for community distribution. “In a typical year at WBNS, right now students would be growing springtime crops like lettuce, radishes, peas, and carrots in their own student plots here on campus,” said Dana Nagle, the school’s Middle School Agriculture teacher and professional gardener. “Now that we’re using a distance-learning curriculum, we’ve provided students with the materials they need to grow a spring garden at home. We’ve supplied seeds to our grade 1-8 families, and containers with soil to students who needed it. We’re also providing weekly online lessons to support students in their home gardening endeavors.” In past years, students have learned to grow long-season summer crops and food grains like corn and sorghum during their weekly Agriculture class. This class also provides lessons on animal husbandry and livestock management, led by Elementary School Agriculture teacher and livestock coordinator Cass Lewis. Much of the food produced for class is offered as a donation to the community. Last year, the school donated nearly 300 pounds of potatoes, sweet potatoes, peppers and summer squash to the Beacon of Hope Food Pantry. Though the Agriculture program has had to adapt to this year’s circumstances, Nagle stated, “our plan is to continue growing food on campus all year. Right now, we’ve planted a lot of lettuce, chard, and collards that families can harvest U-pick style, and we’ll continue with our plan for summer field crops, donating our surplus to the food pantry during this crisis. In addition to this, we’re selling non-GMO eggs, and we’re breeding rabbits, whose offspring is for sale.” “We’re also having an outdoor plant sale on campus (with social distancing) on May 15th and 16th from 9am-2pm,” Nagle added. “Please consider coming to buy some organic plant starts or perennials for your garden to help support our program.” Woodson Branch Nature School, a farm, art, and forest school for pre-K through 8th grade, teaches traditional and non-traditional subjects in rural Madison County. Students have access to an abundant campus with a well-established blueberry orchard, apple trees, pastures, a tobacco barn, trails, creeks, and multiple waterfalls that serve as the property border to the National Forest. To learn more visit www.madisoncclc.org







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