Despite the cold temperatures, students are busy with a big outdoor project: they're designing and constructing Ames’ second school garden.
The project started with a small committee that will soon be an official school club.
"The benefit of being an official school club is that more people will come," said Carrie Herrman, a junior at Ames High.
Last spring Herrman and Erick Estrada, also a junior at Ames High, participated in the AgCulture Youth Food and Farm Program, which is designed to encourage teenagers to grow and cook with fresh food.
They realized that the high school would be a good place for a community garden, so they worked with Sue DeBlieck, a program coordinator with AgCulture, to start the project. DeBlieck also helped start at . Mike Todd, a science teacher at Ames High, serves as faculty advisor for the group.
Over the course of a few work days this fall, student and community volunteers completed Phase I of the project. The work included designing and constructing a 45-foot by 45-foot area on the north side of the school with four raised and several in-ground beds. Volunteers erected a fence, built the raised beds, tilled soil and applied mulch. They also planted garlic, which they’ll be able to harvest next August.
Herrman said they were able to talk to the landscape architect who designed Mitchell’s school garden.
"He gave us some really good tips," she said.
The project seemed intimidating at first, but the students soon realized how much they could accomplish by working together and with the community.
“Now I think, that’s a big thing we did in a couple weeks,” said Estrada.
There’s still more work to do, but the community has been supportive of the students’ efforts. donated $400 to pay for the raised beds and donated the soil to fill them, said Herrman.
Estrada knocked on doors in his neighborhood, and DeBlieck sent a letter to the community asking for donations. Altogether, about 30 couples and individuals from around Ames have donated money to the project. One of the garden club's winter projects will be applying for grants.
The students plan to sell half of their vegetable harvest, donate a quarter to the food pantry and give the remaining quarter to Ames High students and families, said Herrman.
"We'll have to decide how to divy that up," she said, adding that they've discussed providing some produce to the school cafeteria.
Half of the profits from what they sell will go to SHEF (Students Helping to Eliminate Famine), another group at Ames High School; and the other 50 percent will go back to the garden committee.
Teachers will be able to use the raised beds in the garden for science classes, experiments or other lessons if they agree to use organic gardening methods and to maintain the raised bed they’ll use.
Future group projects will include building compost bins and gates, said Herrman. The group would also like to build a garden shed where they can store implements or raise money to buy one.
Junior Morgan Meier said they’ve also discussed working with an environmental science class to harvest rain with rain barrels.
The students have big plans for their new garden, but they’re up to the challenge.
“It’s kind of daunting,” said Hermann. “But we asked for this responsibility and it’s a great thing to have.”
DeBlieck said the group is looking for donations of tools and money to buy seeds and equipment. To donate time, money or materials, or to find out more about the high school garden, contact Mike Todd at firstname.lastname@example.org.