Partnership expands fertile minds

Published 7:00 am Monday, September 29, 2008

When students at Indian Springs School sit down for lunch each day they’ll bite into vegetables and fruits they planted with the help of staff from a local restaurant.

“The fact that I can actually trust the products I eat makes me feel better. I know exactly what I did to grow them,” said Chee Lee, president of the horticulture club. “I also know the effort that it takes … so it makes me appreciate every lettuce that I eat.”

Teacher Bob Pollard began the organic garden with the help of students five years ago. He said Nick Pihakis, co-owner of Jim N’ Nicks, stepped in last year to help expand the Fertile Minds project.

“It’s more of a seed to table program that we are working on now,” Pollard said. “They are seeing it done in a way that is more sustainable. They learn how to grow … where the soil is not destroyed, where there are no harmful chemicals.”

Pollard said one of the primary benefits is learning an alternative way of doing things. Multiple students — six work-study and volunteers from the horticulture club — put several hours a week into the garden. So far this year students have produced items like lettuce, squash, muscadines, corn and bok choi.

Pihakis and partner John Michael Bodner said they haven’t invented anything new.

“It’s really a movement that’s going on nationally,” Bodner said. “We need to know where our food comes from if we’re going to put it in our bodies and put it in our kids bodies.”

The aim of the project is to ensure food in the dining hall food is 90 percent process free.

“At the beginning of this we wanted to see how many kids have dirt under their fingers and it’s not very many of them,” Pihakis said. “So we’re slowing them down and getting them to understand what they are putting into their bodies and having respect for all of it.”