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Innovation Interview: Davenport Community Schools

Lane & Waterman’s Innovation Interviews highlight the unique and innovative work our clients do in the community. Our conversation this week took us to the corner of Marquette and Kimberly in central Davenport, where we found a small farm tucked behind Mid City High School. We talked with Lynn Meyers, Environmental Studies teacher at Mid City, to learn more about the farm and its impact on students.

It’s pretty unique to have a farm at a school. Who plants and tends to the farm at Mid City? 

During the school year, the students in my Environmental Studies class manage the farm. Students research and choose what to plant, make a plan for where each item will be grown, and do all of the planting. We’re grateful for all of the grant support we’ve received, including a grant from the Scott County Regional Authority that helped us buy equipment.

What food do you grow here?

What we grow completely depends on what the students decide, so this year we are growing strawberries, blueberries, pumpkins, corn, potatoes, garlic, carrots, and peppers. We also planted a small orchard, so we have pear, apple, cherry, and plum trees.

What happens in the summer when school isn’t in session?

We have four students who work with us in the summer, and we are able to compensate them for their work. I heard one student say he would come even if he wasn’t paid because he’s having so much fun, but we will pay him nonetheless! They work from 8:00 in the morning until noon a few days a week weeding, planting, and watering.

What do you do with the harvested food?

All the food goes to the Mid City students. We have a food pantry at our school, so some of the food goes directly to the pantry. We also fill up wheel barrows and station them at the two exits to the school for students to take what they need as they leave each day.

A group of students are writing a cook book to teach their peers how to prepare the produce we grow. It can be a challenge for students to have access to fresh, healthy food, so this is one way we can directly combat that challenge.

What has been the student response to farming?

The farm started as a club after school, and now it’s a class offered every quarter. Some students take it every quarter! Our students comment that they enjoy the hands on aspect and just being outdoors. From my perspective, I love watching them gain leadership skills. Each student has the opportunity to lead their peers through part of the planning, planting, or harvesting process, and they take a lot of ownership for what happens out here. Working on the farm with their fellow students forms new friendships and positive teamwork.

A unique aspect of what we do at Mid City is to help kids on an individual basis. Students who come to Mid City may have had attendance issues or poor grades at another school, and we see those issues improve when they get here. It’s our job to find a student’s gifts and draw them out; for the students who farm, those gifts include leadership and dedication.  And some delicious produce!