Your opinion: Nov. 9, 2016

Published 12:15 pm Thursday, November 10, 2016

Points to Furlow Charter School as example
In Saturday’s newspaper, dated October 29, you published an article titled, “Sumter County Schools Golden Radish Award winner.” The article explains the value of the Georgia Grown Feed My School initiative, Georgia’s name for the nationwide “Farm to School” program. Unfortunately the article is somewhat misleading. To read the article, one would think that most schools in Sumter County have a school garden and participated in the 25 farm to school standards based lessons, taste tests, and gardening during the 2015-16 school year. In reality only one school actually did!
I realize that application for the Golden Radish has to originate at the county level, but Valerie Duff and Larry Jackson work at Furlow charter school, the only school that has adopted the Gerogia Grown Feed My School program into its curriculum. Martha Harvey, Sumter County School Nutrition Director, has supported Furlow’s efforts and applied for the Golden Radish both years that the charter school has been in existence. She also applied for and won a grant to have “Feed My School” at Furlow for a week in May, 2016.  The only school that has had a garden to serve educational purposes is the charter school.  Both Ms. Harvey and Larry Jackson, Furlow’s cafeteria manager and President of the 3rd district Georgia School Nutrition Association, have enhanced the program at Furlow (first at Cherokee and now Sarah Cobb). Ms. Harvey’s dream is to have a garden at every county school.
When the county school board was considering whether to adopt Furlow into the system, the ATR quoted Penny Taft who suggested “giving the charter school a chance.” The board voted to have the charter school in the system; the school has a 2 year history. In that time, the county was awarded the lowest of the Golden Radish levels 2014-15, but for 2015-16 it was awarded the highest – Gold level; Furlow met every standard that Burke county (recipient of an award for exceeding the gold standards) did; Burke county’s on site farmer’s market put it over the top!
Furlow took Sumter county from the bottom to the top in one year – That is dedication! I have just learned that the Sumter county school nutrition program sent 2 teachers from every school in Sumter County to Feed My School training fall, 2016. As a result, Sumter primary now has 2 gardens.  Due to Ms. Harvey’s persistence and the role model, Furlow, Sumter County schools may be on the right track to undertake this curriculum that enhances learning in science, math, nutrition, art and literature.
My purpose in writing this letter is not to criticize the school system, but to endorse the value of schools with “hands-on” learning opportunities like gardens and parental involvement — a requirement of parents whose children attend Furlow. Yes, a garden needs volunteer workers to survive, but how difficult is it to find a few hours a month to dig or weed?  This “volunteerism” does not require a parent to participate during school hours – 24/7 is the timeframe.
I endorse parental involvement in school. If parents expect a school to provide a complete education for their children, they may as well forget it! Educators do the best they can; but they need parental support, both at home and in school. A garden is one of the easiest ways to participate and volunteer because a parent can weed, plant or water any time of the week. Every school in Sumter County needs a garden, not only for the educational benefits, but also to give children access to healthy food. If they grow it, they will taste it!  The one thing all of us share is the need to eat – get back to the basics – parents, nurture your children with healthy food and your time.
Elise Miller

EDIITOR’S NOTE: The story referred to was sent directly from Emily Cumbie-Drake, Farm to School Director, Georgia Organics, Atlanta.