Paul Ecke Central Students Growing Veggies for Leucadia Farmers Market

Posted by  (Editor) of Encinitas Patch

The produce stand will help the school’s garden program.

At the , you’ll soon be able to buy veggies grown just a few yards away. How’s that for local produce?

The popular Sunday market at Paul Ecke Central Elementary School already draws a steady crowd—and next month, customers will be able to buy leafy greens from PEC students who grew and harvested the crops themselves right there on campus.

This produce stand is the most recent phase in PEC’s School as a Garden Project. Every week students get about 40 minutes in the garden, but they’re doing more than digging in the dirt. Their garden activities are tailored to supplement the lessons they’re learning in the classroom. Case in point: Garden coordinator Hank Stelzl was recently able to teach kids about photosynthesis using celery stalks, and when test time rolled around, he says “not one student missed that question.”

“When kids can actually touch it, see it—they get it,” Stelzl explains.

Working a prodcue stand at the farmers market aims to give students a real world lesson in commerce, and it’s also a way for them to help ensure the future of their school garden. Some of the market’s proceeds already go to the school’s PTA group, but money from this produce stand will be earmarked for the garden.

Due to budget cuts, no state money goes toward the garden—but the project have still come a long way thanks to community support and funding from the Ecke Family, which has given $30,000 over the last three years. PEC Principal Adriana Chavarin says the school will be applying for more funding, and hopes that one day the garden coordinator position can have a fulltime slot on staff.

Proceeds from the produce stand will also come in handy as the school gears up to start a chicken coop in the fall, and design an Early California garden with input from third and fourth grade social studies classes. There is also a constant need for donated garden equipment and volunteer help, something Chavarin and Stelzl say the school has been lucky enough to receive steadily.

Stelzl says it’s not uncommon for parents, even neighbors, to spend their weekends lending a hand in the garden. He recalls one Leucadia woman who recently contacted him becasue she rides the train to work and enjoys seeing the garden every morning as she passes by.

“She hasn’t had kids at this school for many years,” he says, “but she loved the garden so much, that she just wanted to help us however she could.”

“I think it’s stories like these that are a testament to what we’re doing here,” adds Chavarin, who has a child attending PEC—as does Stelzl. “As a principal, you always want to help create a school that you’d feel good about sending your own child to. I can say we’ve done that.”

If you’d like to help PEC by stocking-up on veggies grown by students, keep an eye out for its produce booth at the Leucadia Farmers Market next month. Stelzl says the produce stand will be open to students who are interested in volunteering and he anticipates the produce stand will be open for business by mid-May. Based on how the springtime launch fares, the school will decide how frequently to operate the produce stand. Encinitas Patch will keep you posted on updates.

If you would like find out more information about how you can help the garden program at PEC, you can contact Stelzl at hank.stelzl@eusd.net.

The happens at Paul Ecke Central Elementary School, 185 Union St., every Sunday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

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