A group of high school students at Union County Vo-Tech Schools has been hard at work transforming a corner of their Scotch Plains campus into a vegetable garden, with the aim of growing fresh produce for use within the school and for donation to local food banks.
Called a Sustainability Community Outreach Garden, the project is part of a national youth service learning program under The National FFA Organization, which provided $2,500 for garden supplies and materials.
“The Sustainability Garden project is a valuable addition to the education and career development resources available to our residents through the Vo-Tech schools,” said Freeholder Chairman Linda Carter. “The urban agriculture movement is a diverse, growing economic sector that offers unique learning experiences and rewarding new career pathways in densely developed areas like Union County.”
The Sustainability Garden consists of raised beds for fruits, vegetables and herbs along with space for plants that attract pollinators.
“One key mission at Vo-Tech is to form a campus-wide community of responsible citizens, and this project is an outstanding demonstration of the service learning model,” said Vo-Tech Superintendent of Schools Peter Capodice. “It is designed to dovetail with the National FFA theme of acting locally to help prevent hunger.”
In addition to providing direct hands-on learning for students involved in Vo-Tech’s Agricultural Science curriculum, the garden will help raise awareness about interrelated agriculture, nutrition and food scarcity issues among students throughout the Vo-Tech campus.
As part of that goal, the entire Vo-Tech campus will be involved in projects related to sustainable gardening practices, such as composting and rainwater harvesting.
The garden project also aims to recruit student ambassadors at Vo-Tech from all 21 municipalities, who can share news and information about sustainable gardening and related issues with their home communities.
“Urban and suburban agriculturists of the future will play a vital role in the health and welfare of their communities, and the Freeholder Board is very proud that Union County students at Vo-Tech are helping to lead the way,” said Carter.
National FFA is a national youth career development organization that operates under Congressional charter through the U.S. Department of Education.
Originally founded in 1928 as Future Farmers of America, in 1988 it changed its name to The National FFA Organization, to signify the embrace of 300 diverse careers identified with contemporary agricultural practices.
At Union County Vo-Tech, the Union County FFA Chapter of the National FFA serves as the Career and Technical Student Organization for students enrolled in agricultural education.
Union County high school sophomores who are interested in applying to Vo-Tech’s share time Agricultural Science Program for the fall can find out more about the curriculum at case4learning.org.
For more information about the award-winning, nationally recognized Union County Vo-Tech Schools visit ucvts.tec.nj.us.