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Cedarville Elementary School grows award-winning garden

The Cedarville Pirate Patch offers hands-on education by teaching students how to grow healthy food and take care of some animals.

CEDARVILLE, Ark. — Thanks to a partnership with the nonprofit FoodCorps, Cedarville Elementary School is giving its students a chance to get hands-on learning outside the classroom. 

The Cedarville Pirate Patch is an award-winning garden.

"It’s a pretty nice garden out here! Very nice!" said Evan Smith, Cedarville fourth grader.

"FoodCorps’ mission is to connect kids with healthy food," said Lacey Fletcher, a FoodCorps service member. "We are 100% grant-funded and donation-funded."

Fletcher is a first-year FoodCorps service member and mom of two elementary school students. Her job is to keep the Cedarville Pirate Patch thriving.

"I hope they learn where food comes from. It’s amazing, even in this rural community that we live in, they don’t know the simplest things," Fletcher said. "They don’t know where a tomato comes from or how it grows or how a strawberry grows."

But this space is all about teaching those life lessons. Every Cedarville Elementary student gets to spend time in the garden twice a month.

"And I really want to instill where it comes from and how it’s grown and what you have to do. And I think it also teaches a little appreciation," Fletcher said.

"I really appreciate getting to come out here because lots of kids don’t really get to do this stuff," said Ellie Karnes, Cedarville fourth grader.

There are fruits and vegetables planted in raised beds, along with some farm animals to take care of.

“We have two chickens, a rooster. We just got a bunny today. And we have a goat named Petunia,” said Piper Holmes, Cedarville fourth grader.

Petunia is a 6-week-old bottle-fed Nigerian Dwarf goat. She lives with Fletcher at home and then comes to the garden every single day and gets to interact with the students. She even goes to the store with them!

They also have been incubating eggs laid by the chickens, which recently hatched into chicks.

Fletcher is working to instill patience and character in all her students as they tend to the fruits of their labor outside in the elements.

“As a mom, it hits home because I know my kids love to be outdoors,” Fletcher said.

“You can feel the fresh air, the sunlight,” Holmes said. “A lot of things you can do out here that you can’t do in a classroom. It just feels way more calming out here.” 

The 2021 Arkansas Grown School Garden of the Year is showcasing the value of hard work, inspiring kids to dig into their education. 

“Hey, I grew that! They didn’t just - I didn’t just buy that at a store. I put a seed in the ground. That popped up because of what I did. So I think it’s working,” Fletcher said.

Lacey will continue her work with FoodCorps next year for a total of two years of service at Cedarville. To learn more about the nonprofit, you can visit its website

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