Northport is historically an agricultural area and while many students are touched by agriculture they don’t think about it beyond the family farm. Non-farm students may not have an agricultural experience at home because busy schedules often preclude a home garden. So, the Northport Public School hoop house provides an opportunity for elementary school students, no matter where they live, to have a hands-on learning experience with growing food.
The school’s hoop house was built three or four years ago and a look at the pictures in this post show that it has produced a veritable jungle of great plants. What you can’t see as easily is the pride that the students take in growing these plants. Spring and summer produce varieties include lettuce, mixed greens, Swiss chard, cilantro, mint, sage, and tomatoes.
While NAHA tour participants will see the hoop house in mid-summer, when the spring plantings have become lush, a fall project is already planned. At the beginning of October, students will plant radishes, beets, and carrots – all things that will be used by the school kitchen cafeteria for “Try It Local Mondays.”
Creating the hoop house was the task of teacher Corrine Wetherbee. She worked with Bill Watson of SEEDs, a Traverse City based non-profit that focuses on providing local solutions to global issues. Corrine applied for a grant and then worked with the SEEDs Youth Work Group to build the hoop house at the school.
Because this is an educational project, the science education has naturally spilled over into the classroom where students also grow seeds in pots. The students are responsible for watering and harvesting and their reward is a lunch that includes what they’ve grown served up as pesto or in smoothies. An extra bonus is that each student gets a recipe to take home with them.
To do the cafeteria taste tests of new foods, the school works with the Traverse Bay Area Intermediate School District and Terra Bogart, a nutrition facilitator from TBAISD. Terra also provides monthly cooking classes and leads the hoop house planting. It’s all part of the TBAISD Farm to School program.
Outside of school Corrine encourages parents and grandparents to read with their children about gardens and gardening and also to share generational stories about their own gardening experiences. It encourages, she says, the hands-on activity that growing plants requires.
The Northport Public School Hoop House is located on Nagonaba Street across from Bethany Lutheran Church and just east of High Street. It will be one of eight gardens on the Northport Area Heritage Association’s fundraising tour on July 31. The tour, which runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., is $25. Students and children are free. Tickets are available at the Pennington Collection, Tamarack Gallery and the Northport Museum or they can be purchased the day of the tour at the various gardens.