Fifth-graders enjoy their bounty



Fifth-grade students at Port St. Joe Elementary School enjoyed the fruits, well, actually, the veggies of their labors during a special lunch last Thursday.

The fifth-graders at Wewahitchka Elementary School will be doing the same in the coming days.

The Port St. Joe students feasted on greens, potatoes, green beans and chicken as Thursday repast, all of it, save the chicken, of course, coming from the schools garden, which has proved bountiful this year.

Roy Carter, the retired county extension director who keeps his hands in the dirt by leading the gardening at both elementary schools, said the Wewahitchka garden might be just a tad more bountiful.

And the harvest is hardly over, a garden that has already provided carrots, lettuce, cabbage, greens and, if one can believe it, jalapenos, among other natural foods.

After last week’s feast, a dozen or so students spent an hour in the garden while others were off to PE.

They donned work boots and grabbed shovels with work to be done digging up several wheelbarrows full of red Pontiac potatoes.

As extension director, Carter was instrumental in establishing the gardens at the two public elementary schools as well as a container garden at Faith Christian School.

Now, he continues his work with fifth-graders at the public elementary schools, support for the program coming from the Gulf County School Board and St. Joe Community Foundation.

“I am trying to promote agriculture,” Carter said. “There isn’t as much agricultural programs as there used to be, though we now have a two-hour block of ag classes in Wewahitchka.

“Plus, the kids are exposed to good, nutritious food which they grew with their own hands. It’s isn’t the sweet stuff and junk they too often eat.”

Carter assisted by Colby Gay, who lives in Wewahitchka and is attending Florida A&M in pursuit of a degree in animal husbandry and interns one day a week.

“I’ll probably end up teaching,” Gay said. “This has been great, a lot of fun.”

The lessons from the garden find purchase, made evident by the “Thank you Mr. Carter” as he walked through the cafeteria, the smiles and the consistently empty plates headed to the trash can.

In addition, each student composed hand-crafted cards, thanking Carter for the work with the class, and in one noteworthy case, wishing the next group of fifth-graders good luck in the garden.

“That’s something isn’t it,” Carter said with a shy smile.

Handley Pitts was particularly decorative with her card, carefully crafting a picture of man with soil.

“I will miss you, your garden,” Pitts wrote. “I’m starting my own garden and those tips really helped me out … learning from a great gardener teacher.”

Lessons learned, the point of the entire exercise.