Reaping what they sow

Photos by Teri Vance/Nevada Appeal

Photos by Teri Vance/Nevada Appeal

Planting an organic garden, Dayton farmer Robert Holley explained, has a special set of rules.

One of them is no pesticides.

He told Dayton Elementary School students this week as they prepared the soil for planting they would have to kill insects in another way.

"I don't like doing it either," Holley said. "But you're going to have to mash them."

The chorus of protest was soon forgotten, however, as students were given shovels and garden claws to begin digging.

"If my cat was here he'd be digging like he was in heaven," Kylie Watermolen, 7, told a friend.

Dayton Elementary School is the first of five in Lyon County that will be planting gardens this year under a program with Community Roots from a three-year grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

"We really see a need to help kids see food differently," said Wendy Madson, manager of Community Roots, which is part of the Healthy Community Coalition in Lyon County. "With all the obesity and diabetes in our youth, it was really important we focus on the food they eat."

Students will be in charge of the gardens from planting to harvesting. A hoop house at Dayton Elementary School will extend the growing season, with the hopes of being able to use the fresh produce in the school lunch programs.

At the schools without full kitchens, the fruits and vegetables will either go to the Dayton Food Pantry for families in need or be sold at farmers markets as fundraisers.

Caroline McIntosh, superintendent of the Lyon County School District, said the school district works with the community in a variety of ways and saw this program as a good fit.

She said it would connect students with the food they eat.

"They understand the way food is grown and learn the value of patience in a world where faster is better," she said. "They become good stewards of the earth."

Holley, of Holley Farms, is donating his expertise, along with Celtic Lawn and Landscape and Coons Construction.

Madson said there also will be an emphasis on the arts. Students will be encouraged to paint signs and design sculptures for display.

Dayton Intermediate School's garden will boast two large sculptures by internationally known sculptor Mischell Riley. Riley, who is known for work such as the three-story high bronze lion at the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, has donated two of her pieces to enhance the school's garden landscape.

Keaton Ralston, 8, is looking forward to some time in the garden as it continues to grow at his school.

"You can get some fresh air out here and work," he said.

And Camille Kordonowy, 8, has already learned a pretty important lesson.

"If you find worms, you have to dig to the side," she said.


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