Education
11:41 am
Tue April 2, 2013

Fresno Charter School Students Go 'Farm Grown' with Fresno Grizzlies Garden Project

ACEL students pose with the Fresno Grizzlies mascot Parker at the ceremony announcing the launch of the garden program last fall.
Credit http://twitter.com/acelfresno

In an effort to increase education about agriculture and sustainability, the Fresno Grizzlies have partnered with a local charter high school to build a garden at Chuckchansi Park. FM89’s Ezra Romero visited the stadium; spoke with the teenagers planting the garden and has this report.

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For the past week and a half a group of seniors from ACEL Charter High School in Fresno have been huffing and puffing at Chuckchansi Park.  But they aren’t running bases or hitting pop flies – they’re building and planting a garden.

“We’re excited most about bringing fresh produce right here to the stadium so that people can see that something as simple as a garden like this can grow fresh produce, they can grow a lot of it and that they can do it themselves,” said Mitchell Houle, a senior at ACEL and the student leader of the project.

"We are a farm team of the San Francisco Giants, we are in the farming capital of the state and the nation; however you want to look at the farm grown idea is right there," Kutz said.

The community garden is part of the Grizzlies Farm Grown program, whose mission is to promote agriculture heritage in the San Joaquin Valley through partnerships that support education and healthy living.  

“ACEL is literally 500 feet from our door .... and to give them a plat form that area to take on the project and to focus on the heritage of farming in an urban environment just made sense,” said Chris Kutz, media relations coordinator for the Fresno Grizzlies.

The baseball team’s marketing branch reached out to ACEL because of the project based learning style offered at the school. John Minkler is the program director at ACEL, which is located across Tulare Street from the stadium, in the old Southern Pacific train station.

“We believe students learn best by actually doing project where they apply what they are learning in school and service projects that make a difference,” Minkler said.

The baseball team hopes to foster appreciation for farming in the region.  The Grizzlies Community Fund gave $1,600 to the charter school for garden construction materials and Fresno Metro Ministry plans to help the students develop and maintain the community garden.

“We are a farm team of the San Francisco Giants, we are in the farming capital of the state/the nation –however you want to look at the farm grown idea is right there,” Kutz said.

The community garden unveiling will be held on opening day, April 4, at Chuckchansi Park.
Credit Ezra Romero / Valley Public Radio

  The group of eight teenagers is planting mini gardens within the larger plot. Each raised garden box has a theme like pizza or Salsa. Once a month during baseball season agricultural partners will come in and host a taste of the farm at a Grizzlies game.  Any produce not used will be donated to local organizations that serve the hungry or sold at minimal cost to benefit the Grizzlies Community Fund.

“We wanted to makes some homemade salsa from one of the plants. So a lot of tomatoes and peppers, garlic and that kind of thing also squash cucumbers and things that can be used in salads and pizza,” Minkler said. “We wanted to have food that could be shared with fans when they come on the tour during baseball season.”         

For the students, they’re just enjoying being at the stadium and a chance to come to a few games.

“I’m a huge baseball fan,” Houle said. “So I think it is really great that is here. It’s centrally located. It’s going to draw more attention to the ballpark and I think it’ll be a good attraction for everyone to see.”

The park is open to other groups showcasing agriculture projects and gardens alongside the charter school’s community garden. As long as they are agriculturally minded, promote good nutrition, and encourage home gardening.

"It's nice to see what just a couple of high school students can do . . . Coming to the games and seeing in the back that you did this garden, is going to be worth everything we've been doing." - Ty Hernandez

The current class of seniors will maintain the garden until they graduate. The Grizzlies will take care of the garden over the summer and hand over the garden to the next senior class in the fall. Ty Hernandez, a senior at ACEL, is looking forward to see the garden in bloom.

“It’s nice to see what just a couple of high school students can do,” Hernandez said. “And the outcome is going to be great. Coming to the games and seeing in the back that you did this garden, is going to be worth everything we’ve been doing.”

The garden will be unveiled on opening day at Chuckchansi Park on April 4th. 

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