River City Science Academy ~ Florida

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Some of the luckiest people are the ones who find something they are passionate about and are able to use that passion to support themselves and others. Jarred Shaw, a literacy coach at the River City Science Academy’s Middle-High School in Jacksonville, Florida, is one of those people. An educator for 23 years and previously a school principal in New Jersey, Jarred has always worked with students and local farmers on the gardens at every school where he was a staff member. Now he serves as the head of the school garden club at this Title 1 charter school.

The garden started when Jarred brought in produce to share from his home garden and a science teacher suggested turning a small, blighted space on the school property into a garden. In addition to soliciting support and donations, a student, Donte Camacho, and Jarred wrote a grant request to Katie’s Krops and we have supported them for the last two years.

The six raised and six in-ground beds provide produce year-round. Sweet potatoes, watermelon, cucumbers, broccoli, eggplant, snow peas, pole beans, collards, spinach, and other leafy greens are some of the vegetables that complement the fruit from 15 varieties of fruit trees including lemon, lime, fig grapefruit, and herbs such as basil, oregano and parsley. They also have a butterfly garden and grow milkweed, roses, and other flowers as pollinators.

The 150 pounds of food produced so far has all been distributed to the students in need as well as some school staff. One 75-year-old teacher said the produce he receives helps keep him alive. New raised beds are being built from wooden pallets so that even more can be grown and shared.

The garden club is still small, with 5 to 10 students participating at any given time. As a STEM school, there are many activities vying for the attention of the students. They still appreciate the garden, and science teachers like being able to use it for some of their lessons.

The garden is also supported by members of the community, including Jones and Hall Garden Center, the Florida Farm Bureau, Target, Southeastern Grocers, and Wild Ones, a group that promotes the use of native plants. In the summer, support for maintaining the garden comes from Jarred himself as well as school maintenance staff and volunteers. For his part, Jarred does not mind because, again, he has a passion for gardening and for providing healthy eating options to his students. Katie’s Krops shares those passions, and we are happy to support Jarred, the students, and the school garden.