School gardens are sprouting up in and around Orlando and doing amazing things. On a recent visit to Ocoee High School, I had the opportunity to tour the garden and talk with Ag Science teacher, Peter Jordan. A student lead teacher guided project that is central to the curriculum of Ocoee High School Agriculture.
Ocoee High School
Students lead in green practices around campus to demonstrate more sustainable methods of living in a campus environment. One of the main objectives of the Ocoee Green program was to reduce the landfill waste stream by using recycling, composting and vermicomposting methods. Students lead in coordinating with teachers and staff by picking up , sorting and properly disposing of waste. As if gardening weren’t enough, the school is also home to livestock. Yes, that’s a cow pasture in the background. Fun!
Along with recycling, gardening, and composting, students learn about protecting our water through catchment, hydroponics and aquaculture. Students have been exposed valuable lessons, including how to keep our water clean and healthy for organisms to thrive, and the value of bio diesel.
Currently, Ocoee High School is working with the 4R Foundation which allows the students to learn more about the food system and their role in it by growing food in-ground and hydroponically. The next step is to construct a process center for cooling, storing and sanitizing harvested produce in order to provide students with a hands-on experience in food safety, processing, packaging and service. Once this facility is completed, food grown and harvested will be processed and served in the OHS school cafeteria.
The Ocoee HS agriculture program recently provided students with a taste test during the first-ever “Cucumber Crunch!”. Working in partnership with 4 Rivers Smokehouse, the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) and OCPS Food & Nutrition Services, students and staff members were treated to fresh, home-grown cucumbers right from the greenhouse at Ocoee High School. All the cucumbers were grown, processed and packaged right on campus!
What an inspiration to schools everywhere. Looking to start a school garden in your neighborhood? Contact me and I will give you resources for how to get started.