EARTH Program Receives USDA Speciality Crop Grant for Its Gardening Workshop


Gifft Hill School will offer a gardening workshop this spring thanks to a U.S. Department of Agriculture Speciality Crop grant.

GHS, in conjunction with Iowa State University, launched its Education and Resiliency Through Horticulture program three years ago and since then the school has expanded its garden and interdisciplinary horticulture-based education.

Numerous interns from Iowa State and along with EARTH coordinator Sarah Haynes have ensured the success of GHS’ EARTH program, hosting farm to table dinners, field trips and more.

With the recently announced $3,000 USDA Speciality Crop grant, the program will kick off a GHS and Community Garden Network, Haynes explained.

“We are set to receive just under $3,000 for the administration of a School and Community Garden Network to include the conducting of a hands-on gardening workshop in Spring of 2013,” said Haynes. “The goal of this workshop will be to expose teachers and community advocates to the tool-sets needed in order to grow their own food.”

“When the individuals take this knowledge back to their schools and communities, it will directly increase the appeal of fresh fruits and vegetables to the student populations of the Virgin Islands by increasing knowledge and access of these specialty crops that grow well in the Virgin Islands,” Haynes said.

There is a growing movement to increase horticulture and agriculture education across the territory. Governor John deJongh signed the “Agriculture in the Classrooms” bill in 2012, which was passed by the 29th Legislature.

GHS supports that initiative and is excited to offer working knowledge for cultivating food.

“We believe the opportunity to grow crops within the school or community setting will offer students exposure to diverse fruits and vegetables that grow well in our climate, a chance to feel ownership and accomplishment for their cultivation and most importantly access to fresh, local food,” said Haynes. “This type of education-based exposure to gardening in the classroom also shows an increase on life skills such as teamwork, problem solving and communication.”

While several public and private schools do actively cultivate gardens, there is much room to expand horticulture in schools and communities, Haynes explained.

“Of the 38 public schools in the territory, the EARTH Program estimates there are approximately 10 to 12 school gardens that are actively growing plants in coordination with classroom activities,” she said. “Some of these schools include Gladys A. Abraham Elementary, Jane E. Tuitt Elementary, Cancryn Junior High, Lockhart Elementary, Julius E. Sprauve Elementary and Joseph Sibilly Elementary.”

“Several private schools have a handful of school gardens as well, including one at the upper campus of the Montessori School and a banana grove at Antilles School,” said Haynes.

Community and school gardens are vital to the health of the next generation and elementary school is the perfect time to learn the skills needed, Haynes added.

“The need and motivation for school and community gardens in the Virgin Islands is at a tipping point,” she said. “Increased access to and understanding of the importance of fruits and vegetables in a healthy diet are the key to healthy children and next generation of Virgin Islanders. Elementary and middle school education is the ideal time to not only introduce the concept of fresh and local food but is also the best time to empower the students to participate in the growing of their own food.”

Besides just hosting the workshop, EARTH officials envision a gardening network developing across the territory which will ensure the expansion of horticulture-based education, Haynes explained.

“We hope this initial grant will kick start the perpetual existence of a gardening network that can grow and evolve as the needs of the participatory gardens grow,” she said.

For more information or to volunteer, contact Haynes at