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SAGE Academy has community garden project

Posted Wednesday, April 21, 2010

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Siler City, NC - Chatham County students are planting seeds for hope and justice. On March 13, students, teachers, and community members began construction of a new community garden in front of SAGE Academy to be called the HOPE (Helping Other People Eat) & Justice Garden.

The students were excited to get started. "I am really looking forward to helping with the organic garden in order to help bring our community together," said Demetritis Wilson, a student at SAGE. Alberto Ortega, another student, agreed, "I am ready to help build our community garden in order to give our community some healthy food choices."

“Our goal is to promote a healthy lifestyle in a hands-on, outdoor space where students are engaged and supported by mentors,” said Kimberly Taylor, Principal of SAGE Academy. SAGE (Students Achieving Greater Education) Academy is an alternative public school for students in grades 8 – 12. In partnership with home and community, SAGE provides a safe, supportive, and educationally appropriate environment for the life-long learner.

With small class sizes and creative teachers, SAGE is a unique environment for a garden. The garden will be an interactive, outdoor science lab with experiments guided by the interests and curiosity of the students. “Planning, developing, and maintaining the community garden will help our students attain a deeper understanding of the interactions of the various parts of our local ecosystem,” said Mike McMillan, a Science teacher at SAGE.

The alarming rates of childhood obesity in the county drew in several local partner agencies that have collaborated with teachers and students to plan the project. “Low-income families often lack access to the fresh fruits and vegetables needed to keep children healthy,” said Amanda Egdorf-Sand of Piedmont Biofuels, a partner in the project. “We hope the garden can provide families with fresh, healthy produce and also the tools, seeds, and know-how to start their own home gardening projects.”

The garden will also be a safe place for youth to exercise and spend time outdoors, while working alongside mentors from diverse backgrounds. “Learning life skills and healthy eating and exercise habits in adolescence will prepare the students for a successful transition to a healthy adulthood,” said Margaret Wurth, Outreach Coordinator with the NC Rural Communities Assistance Project, Inc. and a partner in the initiative.

The project is supported with a grant from the Chatham Education Foundation and generous donations from Chatham Soil & Water Conservation, Brooks Contractor, McDonald Brothers Inc., Holly Hill Daylily Farm, Country Farm and Home Supply, Burt’s Bees, Larry’s Beans, Thompson & Morgan Seedsman Inc., Ace Hardware, the Farmer’s Alliance, Piedmont Biofuels, Chatham Waste Management, Luck Stone Corporation, Food Lion, Sir Pizza, Elizabeth’s Pizza, Compare Foods, and many others. Brenda Williams from Chatham Soil & Water Conservation was instrumental in securing these donations. Partners in the project include First Missionary Baptist Church, the Abundance Foundation, the NC Rural Communities Assistance Project, the Hispanic Liaison, Chatham County Head Start, and numerous volunteers from community groups. “Planning the garden has been a truly collaborative effort, and we’re excited to finally start digging,” said Sarah Kuhn, an artist at the NC Arts Incubator and a partner in the effort.

Daniel Brafford, a student at SAGE, is ready to get to work, "I want to see if I have a green thumb.” We are seeking donations of tools, seeds, plants, and food for our workdays. If you would like to volunteer or support this project with a donation, please contact Margaret Wurth at (919) 542–7227 or Amanda Egdorf-Sand at (336) 460–2367.

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