Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

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March 18, 2012

Community garden will double as classroom

Gardens have a lot of educational potential beyond teaching horticulture, James Jakus believes.

Students from The Crossing Education Center, as part of a project co-managed with the Kokomo-Howard County Public Library, will cultivate and sell organically grown produce this spring and summer as part of a school program.

“The kids are learning farming, agriculture, horticulture, botany, and they’re also learning business and job skills because they’ve got to come to school and be presentable,” said Jakus, the teacher and project manager who is overseeing the program.

The school has received a United Way grant to help pay for supplies. The library has provided farmland at its South Branch to cultivate.

As part of the school and library’s partnership, the general public has been invited to rent garden plots.

The library will have a call-out meeting about the garden at 6:30 p.m. April 4 at the South Branch, 1755 E. Center Road.

Gardeners can rent 6-foot-by-12-foot raised beds for $20 each.

Renters will then be responsible for planting, weeding, watering and all other gardening responsibilities.

After harvests, the gardeners are free to do what they wish with their produce, said Peg Harmon, assistant director of the library.

Students, before planting season, will put together the raised beds for the garden. Then, they will plant the seeds and maintain their own plots.

Each participating student will handle all aspects of the garden — construction, planting, maintenance, harvesting, sales — vs. assigning specific duties to each person. That way, Jakus said, they all learn a little about everything.

Students have begun a similar project at another location. They have started clearing space along the Wildcat Creek to be transformed into usable land.

The Crossing is a year-round school, so students will garden three days a week through the summer.

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