GREAT FALLS - The Montana Farmers Union is giving three Central Montana Schools funding from a $10,000 grant.
Chouteau County Schools is being allotted $1,500 to expand their garden area that contributes to their food service program, with the purchase of supplies and signage. The project aims to educate students about the basics of soil science and a simple irrigation system.
Belt Schools has been granted $2,000 for the purchase of new shop equipment to provide students with hands-on learning experiences relevant the agriculture.
North Star Schools will receive the largest sum of $6,500 for a four-season greenhouse to use for hands-on experiences for elementary and high school students and for use in the food service program.
Jessica Myers — North Star’s Family and Consumer Sciences teacher who submitted the grant — says bringing fresh produce to children on the Hi-Line is essential.
“We are a food desert. We are 30 miles to the closest grocery store and sometimes that produce is questionable. So that was my initial intent.”
A year-round greenhouse is the best-suited addition to the school they could add.
“The Hi-Line is known for farmers growing wheat and that type of thing. But we're really good at growing wheat and lentils, but we're not very good at eating our fruits and vegetables. So that came into play. I want to get more fruits and vegetables in the hands of kids and especially in North Star.”
“The greenhouse is going to help teach kids about food and how it's grown and how to be a little more self-sufficient. Not everyone. Most people you have to learn to be a gardener. And it really is kind of an art," noted Montana Farmers Union President Walter Schweitzer.
The greenhouse will have access to all ages at the school. There will be a specific class and curriculum that will come with the territory. Myers’ goal is that the greenhouse, ”…we intend on, it being self-sustaining.”
Schweitzer added, “our goal is to get back to where we grow more of our food locally, processed locally, to be eaten locally.”
“It fits perfectly with what they were trying to promote. And we're trying to promote AG in a different way as well. It's not just out in the wheat fields. It can be in a greenhouse, and there can be different aspects of agriculture that are not sitting on a tractor.”
The Montana Farmers Union has distributed the funds amongst the three schools and is available for its use.