In June 20 IssueBy Kim Graham RCN Reporter
School is out for students but some local teachers are attending class out in the field.
Last Friday, teachers from area counties, attended a farm tour workshop and visited local growers Anna and Matt Robins at Triple Creek Berry Farm.
The free teacher workshops, hosted by the KY Farm Bureau and local farmers, give teachers an opportunity to see hands on practice of core curriculum they teach in the class room and receive professional development credit.
Thematic lessons and materials incorporate mathematics, social studies, English, and science including tours of local agricultural operations.
“Teachers that attend these workshops can receive up to six hours of professional development,” said Scott Christmas, Director of Women and Ag Education with Kentucky Farm Bureau. “It’s practical. It’s real life application. It’s things that are important to students.”
At Triple Creek Berry Farm, Anna Robins introduced teachers to methods and practices of operating Kentucky’s only USDA certified organic blueberry farm.
Russell County native Anna Robins and husband Matt decided to buy a farm and then began working with an agricultural extension agent to decide what to grow.
“We love blueberries, they are very nutritious, and there were no blueberries around here,” Robins said. “We decided to start this farm and share it with the community.”
Blueberry bushes on the farm are now 4 years old and producing berries she said. The farm uses only organic fertilizers and good old fashioned weed pulling to ensure the plants are healthy.
She said they use a timed drip irrigation system to conserve water and more efficiently deliver water and organic fertilizer to the plants.
Extensive research and planning, with the help of the agriculture extension service and the University of Kentucky, brought to life the organic farm that now grows blueberries, raspberries and blackberries.
Teachers showed interest asking many questions such as: How far do you space the plants? How do you protect your irrigation system in the winter? How much of your crop do birds eat?
Robins explained they space the rows 10 feet apart for ease of mowing and plants are placed 6 feet apart to allow for expansion during growth to maturity.
They drain the irrigation system in winter to prevent freezing and as for the birds, they get a pretty hefty share of berries in their diet, about 50 percent of the crop.
Teachers also toured the Robins’ hydroponic strawberry operation. The ever bearing strawberries grown on the farm produce fruit all summer.
Berries from the farm will be sold at the Russell County Farmers Market, scheduled to open Friday, June 26th at their new location at the corner of US 127 and Lakeway Drive in Russell Springs.
“When you buy from a local farmers market, you get the highest nutritional value in your products,” Robins said.
Robins, current Russell County Farmers Market president, said she and all other members of Russell County Farmers Market are registered Kentucky Proud guaranteeing the produce they sell is their own quality Kentucky grown product.
“When you buy Kentucky Proud local produce you are assured that the product you are getting is a safe, quality product,” said Christmas.
“You get a great quality product at a farmers market and because they bring it direct to the customer it also usually costs less.”
During the tour, teachers had the opportunity to taste for themselves by sampling strawberry and blueberry fruit cups and the Robins’ homemade ice cream using berries grown on their farm.
Teachers unanimously agreed they love the fresh berry filled ice cream.
In addition to the class in Russell County, Kentucky Farm Bureau will host seven additional regional teacher workshops across the state throughout June with an agricultural theme.
“The concept behind regional classes is to help develop relationships between the local farmers in the community and the schools,” said Christmas.
Several teachers left with brochures to learn more about the farm and Russell County Farmers Market.
A teacher from Pulaski County asked about bringing her class over to visit the farm during the next school year.
For more information about the free teacher workshops offered by Kentucky Farm Bureau, contact Scott Christmas at 502-495-5000, ext. 7221.