Urban Farm and Environmental Education

Pam Frazier feeds a lot of people, and she loves it. That's why she was very receptive to Hugh Burns' idea of providing fresh produce for families that rely on the Erase the Need Center for food. Erase the Need is a Title 1 program administered through WJCC Schools and located in a donated building at Sentara Hospital. During the school year they provide backpacks of food for needy students and families. This summer she was thrilled to be able to offer fresh produce to about 25 families that needed assistance.

Hugh Burns is the executive director of Williamsburg Community Growers (WCG), a new nonprofit that is managing a 7-acre plot of land originally known as the Natural Resources and Farm Link Center between Warhill High School and the Williamsburg Indoor Sports Complex (WISC). This summer WCG received a grant from the Williamsburg Health Foundation to begin providing fresh produce grown at the Warhill site, and other local farms, to needy local families. Vegetables grown at the Warhill site were started in greenhouses at Lafayette and J Blaine Blayton Elementary. Dayspring and Kelrae Farms also supplied organically raised produce. The School Health Initiative Program (SHIP) provided support through nutrition education and recipes to go with the fresh produce.

WCG has also received grant money from Dominion Energy to develop a program for local high school students to learn about sustainable agriculture and environmental stewardship. The grant will provide for equipment to help students from all three WJCC high schools expand the learning garden and develop an environmental walking tour for visiting classrooms and the public.

Plans are currently underway to collaborate with the Warhill High School Pathways Project program this fall. Eighty-four students entering their sophomore year will participate in a class called "The Nature of Man." Students will assist with maintaining the garden and then prepare proposals to expand the site. Some of the Pathways students will join Jamestown's award-winning Envirothon team in developing the Environmental Tour of the site, including planned "stations" at a natural and constructed wetland, a wildflower pollinator field, a 3.5 acre soil-building project using 220 tons of residential leaves, as well as stations at the learning garden and the associated Community Garden that has now grown to 30 plots.

This summer WCG learned that the Colonial Soil and Water Conservation District (CSWCD) had received a $50,000 grant to support the educational goals for the site. The district has offered to match the grant from the National Association of Conservation Districts to hire a full-time educator for a 2-year term to help launch the programs at the Warhill site. CSWCD is currently seeking applicants for this position and intends to have the new employee begin assisting WCG in October. Potential candidates can learn more about this position at www.colonialswcd.net.

What does Pam Frazier think of all this? "After years of hard work along with the help of many individuals and community partners, we're able to bless families who need assistance with fresh fruit and vegetables. What an awesome privilege to be the conduit between this collaborative effort and the many appreciative families."

Contact Hugh Burns at wcgva1@gmail.com if you are interested in learning more about these projects.

This item was posted by a community contributor.

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