SANGER — Sanger ISD is getting a garden, but it’s not just some tomato plants in a patch of grass.
The district was one of three schools in Texas — along with Abbott ISD outside of Hillsboro and Levelland ISD near Lubbock — to receive a $25,000 grant from the America’s Farmers Grow Rural Education program, which allows local farmers to nominate nearby schools for agriculture-related projects.
Local farmer Thomas Foster was flipping through one of his agriculture magazines when he read a story about the grant project. He told his wife, Valerie, who works as the homeless liaison for Sanger ISD, and together the family nominated the school district for the grant.
“This is a small example of what the Fosters have done and continue to do for this district,” school board President Ken Scribner said during a check presentation at Monday night’s Sanger school board meeting.
Sanger ISD has big plans for its community garden, which will eventually include a separate greenhouse. Science classes from kindergarten through 12th grade will use the garden for ecology lessons and conduct experiments. Older students will use engineering and 3D software to build automatic watering and fertilizing systems.
“We’ve got kindergartners who are already learning how to code and use computer programs,” Valerie Foster said. “When you take that to a level where they’re able to problem-solve, the opportunities are endless.”
School officials said they hope to make the garden self-sustainable by reusing rainwater and collecting compost from the agriculture barn. Food grown in the garden can be used in cooking projects for culinary classes, and to feed livestock animals tended by agriculture science students. A floral design class is hoping to use flowers grown in the greenhouse for their arrangements.
Fruits and vegetables from the garden will also be included in the district’s Friday backpack program, which sends hungry kids home with food to eat over the weekend when they can’t rely on free breakfast and lunch in the cafeteria.
Tammy Austin, the district’s coordinator of instructional technology, said the grant money will serve as a starting point for the district. She and Foster plan to reach out to farm stores to get seeds and soil; a local stone business for gravel; electricians and plumbers to put in necessary wiring and piping; and cabinetmakers to provide pallets and wood.
Officials haven’t set a location for the garden yet but want someplace centrally located so students from each of the district’s campuses can be bused over. Students hope to start growing crops by the end of the school year.
“We’re an agriculture community, and incorporating technology is important to us as a district,” Superintendent Sandra McCoy-Jackson said. “Any time you can mix together what you love, it’s very exciting.”