LINCOLN - A $2,500 grant from the National FFA Organization will allow the Alcona FFA chapter to continue making enhancements to the school's community garden, intended to be both an outdoor learning resource and a source of local produce.
The grant was one of 58 given to Rural Youth Development programs in 15 states throughout the country this year, and the third annual to be awarded to Alcona. FFA adviser Brian Matchett said he and the students applied for the grant in August and were notified last week, though the grant had been for $3,000 the past two years.
"It was a joint effort. The students and I both worked on it," he said. "When we apply for grants for the program, they typically do the preliminary writing and I help them with editing and finalizing for the grant."
He expects the check to arrive before the school's winter break, and stipulations on how to spend it were determined by the students' application, which always intended to use the funds for improving the community garden.
"The grant was written for purchasing some limestone and mulch for the garden so that we can improve the walkways. We're working to make the garden more handicap accessible, which is part of the reason for the purchase of limestone. We also have some money written in to purchase tools, like wheelbarrows, shovels, hoes, and planting tools," Matchett said. "There's also some money written into that for some printing and publication expenses, because we want to do a little bit more work on promoting the garden and making people aware of what we're doing and where the vegetables are donated, where those are sent."
The garden has always relied heavily on community volunteers, he said, citing MSU Extension Master Gardeners as instrumental in helping the project thrive.
"We're hoping to make more people aware that the community garden is up and running at the school, and through that awareness, we're hoping that we find more people who are interested in coming and helping out the students in the summer months to continue that garden," Matchett said. "The main goal is to continue a learning laboratory for students, all the way from preschool through 12th grade here on Alcona Community Schools campus, and give them an area where they can learn about everything from plant life cycles to soils and soil sampling, and then certainly tie in a community service component where their education is giving back to the community. That's going to happen through us donating the produce that's harvested from the garden."
Andrew Westrope can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 358-5693.