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Utilizing Volunteers to Planting People’s Garden on Earth Day

Engaging a group of preschoolers during a lesson on conservation is no small feat. But, organizers and participants of this year’s Earth Day People’s Garden Planting event knew just the trick to catch the students’ attention. They enlisted the help of “Pete” the potato.  FFA student shares the journey of “Peteâ€� the potato

“Pete” is the creation of Van Buren High School’s Future Farmers of America students. The 15 FFA students, their teacher, NRCS Ohio’s Area One staff, and Earth Team volunteers worked with the 25 Immanuel Lutheran Preschool students and their families during the Earth Day event.

FFA student, Brayton Schmitz, shared a  book written and illustrated by the chapter specifically for the event that explained how a potato starts from a seed potato that is planted in the ground, later becomes a plant, and then the plant develops tubers which we enjoy eating. The book also showed “Pete’s” journey in the harvest process and delivery to market.

Preschooler learns about healthy soilTo tie soil and water conservation into the Earth Day lesson, the preschoolers also learned the importance of healthy soil and clean water in “Pete’s” development. Chris Davis, NRCS Soil Scientist, led a lesson on soil grading where he explained the differences between clay, sand, and silt.

Hancock County Soil and Water’s rain barrel and rain garden were the next stop. The site was used to demonstrate the importance of good water in the ecosystem and to show that excessive runoff can lead to soil erosion. At the end of this lesson, the preschoolers were paired up with FFA students to help plant potatoes, beans, onions, and sweet corn seeds in the People's Garden. However, that wasn’t the end of the lesson. The FFA students gave each child soil, and sunflower seeds to plant and nurture into sunflowers at home.

Jeff Freeman, NRCS Earth Team Volunteer Coordinator in Findlay, said, “Overall, this was a very fitting way to celebrate Earth Day. This event brought people together from across multiple generations; from the tender age of two through more than 60 years wise. In addition, the event utilized 41 Earth Team volunteers contributing over 180 hours of service. However, the true benefit to this planting day will be realized in the future when the vegetables produced are delivered to Findlay area missions and food pantries serving people in need.”

Freeman also said that since this year’s Earth Day event was such a success, he and Van Buren High School’s FFA teacher plan to coordinate another People’s Garden Planting event for next year!