Poughkeepsie High School Garden Growing Again

POUGHKEEPSIE – A courtyard garden at Poughkeepsie High School is up and ready for students to grow fresh fruits and vegetables with the possibility of selling them.

The Michelle Obama Victory Garden was first built in 2008 and initially maintained by high school students interning for the Poughkeepsie Farm Project. It is located in the courtyard between the main lobby and the gym.

PCSD recently received a grant to revitalize the garden after it sat dormant due to COVID. Under the guidance of school counselor Franky Perez, who serves as Green STEAM Garden Project Farm2School coordinator, a group of students spent two days cleaning up the garden and are eager to get back to work.

“It definitely sparked an interest,” Perez said. “Even the ones that may have not filled out an application yet, they stop me in the hallway and they’re like ‘Are we getting back in the garden?’”

The program is crucial for students to see where food comes from, as well as how to eat and cook healthily. Perez believes students will have more of a connection to healthy food when they see it grow from seed to sprout.

“Food is life and our kids need to know where healthy food comes from,” Perez said. “The mission is to teach kids and hopefully they’ll go home and teach their families as well.”

Eventually, Perez hopes to turn the garden into a business model where students can package and sell fruits and vegetables to the community and the school cafeteria. The students will also plant microgreens inside so they can garden all year long.

“The ultimate goal is that we can create a product that everyone gets to enjoy,” Perez said.

“Our model is going to be one that if it’s sustainable, I hope we can grow enough food to start a store.”

The program meets the school’s Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math requirements as students use math to build garden beds and science to learn about the compost used. For some students, gardening is a great stress reliever and they have thanked Perez for offering them the opportunity.

“This is right in line with social-emotional learning,” Perez said. “People were in their zone.”
Freshman Omari James joined the program because he loves gardening and said the space will make fresh produce more readily available in the community. James felt welcomed by Perez and plans to continue with it through high school.

“I love going outside and pulling weeds,” James said. “It’s a great program, I love it.”
The Farm2School Garden Project is holding a plant sale to support the garden. Bedding plants from Sorbello’s Greenhouse in Highland and 10- and 12-inch hanging baskets are for sale. Perez will have plants available on Friday for anyone who did not get a chance to place an order.

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