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Dallas School Digs in to Celebrate MLK Day

story by Dee Ann Littlefield

"Life's most persistent and urgent question is, 'What are you doing for others?'" Martin Luther King, Jr.

Volunteers built the culinary beds along the contour of the slope to reduce soil erosion.Over 200 students, family, and volunteers at Moss Haven Elementary school in Dallas answered that question on Martin Luther King Day in the gardens of their school's Moss Haven Farm. The workers were there to help install new culinary beds for the school's National Day of Service project.

"Dr. Martin Luther King would have been so proud of our work and efforts," said Kim Aman, Moss Haven Farm's manager. "This farmer is so very thankful for the community that came out, dug in, and got so much done.

"The manpower is so valuable to our program and we could never survive without the constant and generous support that our community brings," Aman stated.

The volunteers cleaned out class plots to make way for Spring planting, planted a big crop of onions, readied their Giving Garden for planting, cleaned out their Purple Martin Houses, and moved mulch, compost, and soil, all while having fun.

Kim Aman, Moss Haven Principal Philip Henderson, and Bertha Venegas, NRCS State Outreach CoordinatorIn addition to the productive work day, Moss Haven Farm is celebrating their new partnership with the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) for the establishment of a Community Garden. The Farm received a $2,500 grant from the USDA to install two new herb beds and establish a rainwater catchment system to collect runoff from the chicken coop and other adjacent buildings.

"We are excited to partner with Moss Haven Farm in this great opportunity to grow healthy food while educating students about agriculture and natural resources," says Bertha Venegas, state outreach coordinator for the NRCS.

The garden was established in 2012 and interest has grown in helping with it. The students and volunteers grow vegetables which are harvested and eaten by the students and neighborhood families that help work in the garden.

Michael Brooks looking at the layout of the herb garden beds that will be established.The new herb garden, made possible with the USDA grant, will expand crops and learning opportunities for the students. The herb garden will serve as a lab for the culinary program at the school. The students will be learning about flavors and will use their iPads to 'mark' and 'tag' an herb and describe what they just saw.

Moss Haven Farm sought the assistance of local USDA-NRCS District Conservationist Michael Brooks for help with the placement of the new beds, as well as the rain water catchment system that is in the works.

"I really enjoy working with this group," Brooks said. "They really want to do what's best for the land and what will help them be most successful with their crops. For instance, they were originally going to put the new beds lengthwise up and down the slope of their land. I suggested they install them more along the contour of the slope to reduce the chance of erosion and save their soil."

Michael Brooks, NRCS DC Arlington, with Kim Aman, farm volunteer and Lois Diggs, Master Gardener.The garden is a success thanks to a large group of sponsors, including the USDA-NRCS, Texas Master Gardeners, Cooper Institute, Whole Foods, American Heart Association, United Way, and Neighborhood associations.