Grow It Know It was established several years ago and was a culmination of many ideas from several people, from several organizations, working at different locations. Early partners in the program included the UGA Office of Service-Learning, UGArden, Keep Athens-Clarke County Beautiful, Clarke County School District, Athens Land Trust, and especially Clarke Middle School.
For years, we had been trying to establish school gardens, introduce more locally grown produce into the school cafeterias and engage teachers and school children in gardening, nutrition, and related activities such as composting, recycling, and building butterfly gardens. We would get something started at a school with a parent or teacher as a partner, but more often than not, the project would die out as soon as that person left or got too busy.
The program began to formalize when an The Office of Service-Learning partnered with AmeriCorps VISTA to place a VISTA service member as the school gardener at Clarke Middle School. The idea was that one person was needed to be responsible for coordinating gardening and nutrition efforts at one school because principals, teachers, and staff have too many other duties to find time to pull it all together on a school-wide basis. This simple concept became the core principle of the Grow It Know It program.
First Debbie Mitchell and then Wick Prichard accepted the challenge of developing a school-wide programming that would engage as many students and staff as possible in gardening, nutrition and recycling activities. This approach has become the second fundamental principle of Grow It Know It, i.e. whatever program develops must engage and then approved, tweaked, and adopted by the principal, staff and students of the individual school.
After a year of singing songs in the cafeteria while collecting uneaten apples, tending a very large garden and gatherings hundred of pounds of food scraps for the compost pile Wick Prichard began to make inroads. A big success was the creation of a summer program titled the Kitchen Garden Corps. The program runs daily during the summer and combines gardening, cooking (and lots of eating) and entrepreneurial skills. Each week, the students operate a flash restaurant where they serve up a fabulous meal including an entree, main course and dessert to a group of 30-70 very happy customers who sign up in advance to attend this amazing lunch.
During the school term, we now have an AmeriCorps VISTA serving as the school gardener at each Clarke County School District middle school. At Burney-Harris-Lyons, Clarke Middle, Hilsman, and W.R. Coile, we support the work of the Agriculture Science and Family and Consumer Science programs and more generally work with each school to develop a more sustainable vision for our students in Athens. As AmeriCorps VISTA service members, it is the job of the school gardener to mobilize community support for schools and school gardens.