Chawanakee receives $10,000

September 3, 2013 

Chawanakee Unified has received a $10,000 grant from the Fund America's Farmers Grow Rural Education Grant Program for 2013 presented by Monsanto, to help complete the recently built school greenhouse.

The grant is given every year to schools in rural areas that incorporate farming programs in their school work as part of a program to help develop future generations of farmers.

In order to qualify for the grant school districts must be nominated by a farmer in one of the eligible counties. Once a school district is nominated, that district will be notified and sent an invitation to apply for a grant.

Following nomination the school district (not individual school) is required to fill out an application form describing what agricultural education is taking place including a detailed layout describing where the money would be spent.

"In order to receive the grant the school district had to go through a process of being nominated and filing out applications," Minarets agricultural instructor Amanda Ferguson said. "We had to give descriptions of the project and description of the school.....we had to give a time line of what we wanted to do, when it would be completed, information about the staff and community as well as give them general goals for the project."

Ferguson says the grant will be a huge contributor to projects that were already set to take place but need a bit more funding to complete.

"This will give us enough money to finish all the little things like irrigation, climate control and ornamental plants for the greenhouse."

Since 2011, America's Farmers Grow Rural Education has donated nearly $5 million to rural schools who way heavily in agricultural education. This year Chawanakee Unified was nominated by school board member and farmer Barbara Bigelow, of O'Neals, whose family farms pistachios, pomegranates and tiger figs.

Bigelow believes that the money will help support programs and projects that will get the students involved in agriculture at an early age.

"We are a project based education facility at Minaret and this gives the student the opportunity to have hands on access and put together the entire interior of the greenhouse to make it operational," Bigelow said.

Chawanakee Unified School District was one of two school districts in the state of California to receive a grant. More than 14 counties spreading all over California were involved in this years process, some as far south as Imperial and as far north as Yolo.

In addition to the greenhouse, the money will also be used for ornamental horticulture and expanding the plant science department at Minarets.

"I think it is going to help a lot — it would be great to see a greenhouse producing something and seeing the students build it from the ground up," Ferguson said.

When completed Ferguson hopes the greenhouse can be used to teach students the ins and outs of horticulture including the sales and distribution side of the industry.

Minarets plans to team up with Spring Valley Elementary to host a farmers market in the near future as a way to get students involved and learn about all the aspects of the industry including growing, sales and distribution.

Details: americasfarmers.com/growruraleducation.

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