“We now have four yards within two blocks,” said Herbert. “We’re very respectful of the neighborhood and don’t take a lot of kids into the yards. But I have some who work with me and are part of the after-school urban farm club who plant and harvest, and then cook what we grow. The kids run the chicken coop that generates about a dozen organic eggs a day. And we just started raising ducklings.”
The chickens have become the subject of life-cycle studies for the younger students, while high schoolers have vaccinated the creatures in the immunology lab. The AP biology students humanely slaughtered them and learned how to make chicken broth and soup.
While much of the produce is consumed at the school, there’s still an abundant harvest every year. The bumper crops inspired Herbert to create a community outreach program. Students have served soup at local food kitchens and frozen batches of butternut squash soup that were delivered area food pantries and shelters. Senior Virginia Davis, who has been part of the farming initiative for six years, worked on a distribution model to get more of the school’s food into the community.
“I got started working with the farm because I liked picking and eating all the food – our strawberries are the best,” said the Buckhead resident. “But I’m also interested in environmental activism. As the farm has gotten bigger, we’ve been able to have more partners, and I’ve been working with Project Open Hand and Urban Recipe (a food co-op in Grant Park) to get our produce to the different demographics that can use it.”
The connection to the community is the most valuable lesson of the program, said Herbert. “I really want them to see where their food comes from, but I also want them to see that our food goes to people who can’t afford it.”