Morgan Olson and one of his students prepare the garden. (Photo: Joshua Akkerman)

SAUK RAPIDS - Sauk Rapids-Rice Middle School started planting its own garden today. Earth and Physical Science teacher Morgan Olson formed a class focused on school gardening.

"We've been working all spring to build the school garden, and today we've got some students coming in to help plant the school garden," says Olson, "The students did research, learned how to grow different plants; in the greenhouse here raised all kinds of seedlings." 

Students were planting tomatoes, peppers, carrots, lettuce, kale, squash, and watermelons, which will be used by the school. The garden was made possible through grants.

Olson says, "One of the grants is from our school lunch corporation, and so they'll be serving some of the produce through their line. In addition to that we will be using quite a bit of the produce in our cooking classes here at school." 

Olson says the other major grant came from the Benton County SHIP (Statewide Health Improvement Program) Initiative. It was with their support the students were able to build the greenhouse, and make the courtyard into a garden space.

Olson added it's important to know the connection between the food on peoples' plates, and where it comes from. In this garden it all comes full circle.

We are looking at local food sources, and ways to cut down on the carbon cost of transporting foods from far away, so we're able to eat right from our school garden. We also take scraps from the school lunch and compost them so that works its way back into our program too.

With support from the school Olson hopes to make this a sustainable program, and a sustainable garden.

He says, "This year it's been making it work with the resources we have, and I would guess that in the next few years we'll have more of a formal system to keep it sustainable." 

Some of the plants going into the Sauk Rapids-Rice Middle School Garden. (Photo: Joshua Akkerman)