Master Gardeners supporting school agriculture education


DAPHNE – A grant to repair the Daphne High School greenhouse is the first step in a program by Baldwin County Master Gardeners to increase support for agriculture education in the area.

Master Gardeners Julian Walthall and Maureen Nation presented the first check for $1,500 to DHS agriscience teacher Betsy Anderton on July 21.

“The Baldwin County Master Gardeners have decided that we wanted to offer some support to the agriscience programs in the public high schools of Baldwin County,” Walthall said. “So, we set up a grant program that we will have each year in which we invite schools to apply in the spring to do a special project, something they were not able to do, something they need to add to something they’ve already got started.”

Nation said the committee set up to approve grants looked over the first requests and decided on the Daphne project.

“We have looked at the projects and what they’re doing, and it was unanimous that we start here, that Ms Anderton was doing so much here that we wanted to help her in any way we could,” Nation said.

Anderton said the grant will help fix the greenhouse behind the DHS stadium.

“We’re going to use it to fix the side of our greenhouse, the roller and the bar that allows us to roll up the righthand side. It was about a $1,500 problem and we just hadn’t found the resources yet to do that, so now we’ll be able to roll up the side of our greenhouse and it’ll be much cooler,” Anderton said.

When schools closed in March due to the COVID-19 outbreak, the closure stopped many annual fundraising projects for agriculture education at Daphne and other Baldwin high schools, Anderson said. Efforts to sell plant seedlings and other projects had to be abandoned when students were sent home.

Anderton said the grant will help them get off to a new start in August.

She said the school is working on a variety of projects to teach students about ancient and traditional farming methods. She pointed to set of terraces where planted were growing near the greenhouse.

“We use this to discuss ancient farming techniques, like terracing and creating more land because this used to be a hill and the kids and I talked about how we could make it useful and we did a lot of research and we came up with the terrace idea,” Anderton said.

She said agriculture students and teachers hope to set up a program where middle and elementary school students can also come out to the site and learn about the area’s farming heritage and future.

“This would be a chance to really discuss sustainable urban farming, bringing in the animal wastes and that whole full cycle and how you can really have a healthy space and I think that it was a good opportunity to provide some ownership for kids in the feeder schools coming in,” she said.

Daphne High Principal John Comer said that while Baldwin County is changing, agriculture education remains important.

“Everything goes in cycles and just because certain jobs are really needed right now in some areas and maybe because farmland’s being sold off here, there may be a lessening of that, the reality is we’ve got to have farms and this isn’t just about food, it’s about the natural beauty and the spaces we live in and all of those things,” Comer said.