City of Florence & Florence 1 Schools Partner to Establish the Farm at Florence One
On the heels of the establishment of farm-to-school initiatives at several local schools, the City of Florence and Florence 1 Schools recently developed a partnership to create a program to benefit all students from pre-kindergarten through grade 12.
On Tuesday, representatives from Florence 1 Schools and the City of Florence came together to formally announce their partnership to create the Farm at Florence One.
Mayor Teresa Ervin recognized the impact that such a program can have in the community and remarked about the initiative, “This is a wonderful opportunity for our community youth that is sure to impact Florence residents for generations to come. We wish Florence 1’s administration, educators, and students much success as we move forward in this endeavor.”
According to Florence 1 Schools Farm to School Coordinator Jeff Murrie, the school district has witnessed an increased interest and participation in farm-to-school initiatives over the past few years. “Instructors are doing amazing work with programs at Delmae, Lucy T. Davis, John W. Moore, Sneed, Southside, and South Florence High,” cited Murrie. “Moreover,” he added, “this past fall three schools (Lester, Timrod and Wallace-Gregg) received grants from Duke Energy to receive school-based gardens, and McLaurin Elementary was selected to participate in the School Gardens and Education Assistance Program through the South Carolina Department of Education.”
The Florence 1 Board of Trustees approved of the Farm at Florence One partnership agreement at its most recent Board meeting. Board chairman, Porter Stewart shared, “On behalf of the Board of Trustees, we are deeply appreciative of this new partnership with the City of Florence. I applaud our administrators and city personnel for having come together in a new and innovative way to first identify recurring needs in our community and then to find a means to address solutions for those needs in ways that allow students to literally become part of the solution through hands-on education and participation as engaged members of our larger community.” Stewart acknowledged Jeff Murrie’s contributions to the program and his encouragement of students to address problems in their community with innovative solutions.
Florence 1 School Superintendent Dr. Richard O’Malley said, “I believe the Farm at Florence One will create a state-of-the-art educational facility that will facilitate innovative programs designed to educate our students about agriculture, nutritional awareness and environmental stewardship. Our goal is to educate our students, who are located in one of the highest rated areas of food insecurity in the nation, to make connections about the benefits of a healthy lifestyle.”
In 2015, Murrie coordinated the Farm to School Program at Briggs Elementary which received grants from the South Carolina Department of Education and the Department of Agriculture. The farm at Briggs has received statewide recognition for its effort to connect students in grades K-6 with nutrition, food systems and agriculture. “It (the farm) allows the students to use all of their senses through the growing of vegetables, seeing farm animals, learning about beehives and preparing vegetables for healthy meals,” said Murrie.
The Farm to School Program at Briggs has also been featured on South Carolina Educational Television’s Clemson Extension Program Making It Grow, and it has garnered support from advocates of Farm to School and Farm to Table Programs. Students in the Briggs Elementary Farm to School Program were at Tuesday’s program to provide their endorsements.
“My favorite things to do are go see our goats, Holly and Jolly and work in the garden. Farm to School makes going to school FUN!” exclaimed McCoy White a second grader.
"Because of Farm to School, my family now recycles and composts at home,” said Jabari Wilson, a 6th grade student.
"This class helps students learn how to be more sustainable, while providing the tools needed to protect our environment,” explained Ava Tyner, a fifth grader.
Today’s announcement took place on 14 acres of land adjacent to the new Eddie Floyd Tennis Center located on Jennie O’Bryan Avenue. “This was a dream location based on its high visibility, ease of access, historic ties to agriculture, close to Interstate 95, and its location in a USDA-recognized food-insecure region,” said Murrie.
According to the national Farm to School Initiative, farm to school implementation differs by location but always includes one or more of the following: Procurement: local foods are purchased, promoted and served in the cafeteria as a snack or taste-test; School gardens: students engage in hands-on learning through gardening; and Education: students participate in education activities related to agriculture, food health or nutrition.
By becoming a part of the Farm to School Program, Florence 1 Schools joins more than 42,000 schools in all 50 states, Washington, DC and US Territories benefiting more than 23.6 million children.
“The Farm at Florence One will be the first in the state of South Carolina to include a row crop operation, educational center, community raised beds, poultry, and small herd animals,” Murrie announced. “It will be the epicenter for agricultural education, sustainability, nutrition education, fruit and vegetable production, and community outreach programs.”
Other entities representing South Carolina nutritional services like Chartwells and the Office of Health and Nutrition were present Tuesday to express their support for the new initiative.
“Chartwells K-12 is thrilled to partner with The Farm at Florence One. It is such a privilege to support teaching kids about food from farm to table as part of serving up Happy & Healthy to every student, every day,” said Eugenie Caroselli, Vice President, South Region, Chartwells. Chartwells is a culinary service program serving Florence One Schools.
“The S.C. Department of Education recognizes the importance of educating students about agriculture, nutrition and making healthier food choices,” remarked Ben Sease, Program Coordinator for the South Carolina Department of Education’s Farm to School Program.
According to Murrie, there are three main objectives of the Farm at Florence One. He outlined them:
- to give all students from pre-kindergarten to the 12th grade the opportunity to experience hands-on learning rooted in agriculture, science, math, and entrepreneurism.
- to establish a production farm that will provide local fresh fruits and vegetables to culinary services in Florence 1 Schools and the new downtown farmers market.
- to address the need for additional community nutrition education and food access in a region of Florence identified by the United States Department of Agriculture as a food desert or food insecure area.
"Many of our students are unaware of the many career opportunities that exist that are related to agriculture and agribusiness. The Farm at Florence One will give them a place to learn about farming, nutrition, the environment, and sustainability. The Farm at Florence One will not only be a center of learning, but also a full production farm providing locally grown fruits and vegetables to our school cafeterias. Students in Florence One Schools deserve to eat fresh and local, and they will with the creation of the farm. The vision is immense and the positives are enumerable. The potential to bridge a gap and unite all cultures is real. The creation of the farm site will be inspirational and transformative for all,” said Murrie.