Blackburn Laboratory Middle School is preparing to sell fresh produce to the community that was harvested from its Learning Garden and developed in partnership with Jackson State University.
Sales at the student-led Farmers Market will be from noon to 3 p.m. Wednesday, May 22, at the garden that is adjacent to the middle school. Produce includes peppers, regular tomatoes, grape tomatoes and squash. Students planted seeds or miniature plants at the beginning of the project, along with sunflowers as growth companions.
Over the course of eight weeks, they have been tending the garden by watering and pulling weeds for an optimal spring harvest.
Heather Wilcox, director of JSU’s Center for University-Based Development, said the learning garden will cap a successful semester of growth – figuratively and literally – for students.
“With the end of school year upon us, the big shebang is to have a student-led farmers market. Students will pick all the tomatoes, squash and peppers and sell them at a fair price. They also will sell artwork they’ve made throughout the year,” Wilcox said.
“They will have a tent, and students will develop a garden wall to display pictures from when they first began planting.” Since the project has been intertwined with their curriculum, essays will be included with the artwork.
In addition, students will undergo a miniature entrepreneurship class to learn about generating money and marketing.
For the event, students will set up stands to display their vegetables. Some also will provide tours of the garden, which has been sprouting even more vegetables.
Wilcox said the garden contains a barrel and a gauge to measure rainfall, and a thermometer. After nearly two weeks, students have measured four inches of rain onsite that has resulted in larger vegetables. She credits the fresh rainwater for providing the extra nourishment. The downpours also have meant less watering by students.
“I’m really excited about this effort,” Wilcox said. “It’s beneficial to students because they are approaching the end of the year – a time when they’ve been doing a lot of testing. This gives them another avenue to learn beyond their rigorous academic work; it’s a learning garden that students look forward to and helps push them to the end of the academic year.”
Wilcox acknowledged the support of community partners and volunteers. They helped with maintenance and funding to purchase plants, seeds, soil and tools, she said.
“This really is a collaborative effort, and the various entities are critical to our success. Our department couldn’t have done it alone.”