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Local elementary campuses receive school garden grants
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The school garden at Walnut Elementary Education Center will receive some much needed upgrades after the elementary campus was selected as one of 44 schools throughout California for “Dig It,” a school garden program made available through Tractor Supply Company.


This was the first year Walnut applied for Tractor Supply Company’s program, according to fourth grade teacher Marianne Vander Veen, who said that the school garden is in need of gloves and shovels for students, as well as an upgraded watering system.


“We have to water by hand,” said Vander Veen. “We would like to put the whole system on a timer to make things easier.”


Vander Veen said that the garden is used by all students at Walnut, and this year the school had a Math-Science Magnet elective that taught second grade through sixth grade students how to plant a garden. Vander Veen said students were rewarded for their hard work too as they got to eat what they harvested.


“I have found that students love to learn about where their food comes from,” said Vander Veen. “They love to see how the process goes. They learn that it is an easy process that only takes hard work. Some have a hard time being patient to see the results, but enjoy the process.


“I hope the garden inspires children to grow their own garden at home. I hope this gives them a better understanding of our ag community,” added Vander Veen.


Tractor Supply Company partnered with the National Agriculture in the Classroom Organization, a nonprofit organization that promotes agricultural literacy in K-12 classrooms across the country, and NAITCO’s state affiliate California Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom, to launch the “Dig It” school garden program last year in an effort to provide schools with “an enriched, hands-on curriculum that would reinforce responsibility and teamwork, while deepening students’ understanding of where food comes from.”


“There’s something so important about getting kids outside of the traditional classroom setting and allowing them to use their hands and minds in a different way,” said Jessica Holmes, Store Marketing Manager at Tractor Supply and creator of the program. “The value of a program like Dig It was reinforced by its success in New York and Tennessee, and we’re extremely excited to watch it grow in California, Pennsylvania and Utah.”


Through this partnership, Tractor Supply Company developed a curriculum guide and awarded 120 schools throughout the nation with a $500 grant to start or sustain a school garden program.  Walnut and Gratton Elementary School, located in Denair, were two of the 44 elementary schools selected in California this year.


“The California Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom is pleased to partner with Tractor Supply Company in bringing the ‘Dig It’ School Garden Grant Program to California schools,” said Judy Culbertson, executive director of the California Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom. “We appreciate Tractor Supply Company’s more than $20,000 investment in classrooms throughout California so that our students will gain greater knowledge about where their food and fiber comes from, and we look forward to providing resources and support to everyone involved.”


“Dig It” is designed around the growing season and will last through the remainder of the school year. Each participating student will receive a child-friendly garden tool set and a Master Gardener Certificate from Tractor Supply Company upon completion of curriculum. The program will culminate with a ceremony for family and friends at their local Tractor Supply Company store.