How did Earth Heart Growers (EHG) get started?
In 2015, Hursey Elementary School, a Title 1 public Montessori school located in North Charleston, had an opening for a garden teacher position. I allowed my heart to guide me, as I saw so much potential for community-consciousness building and environmental caring. At that point, I had finished my Montessori training and had been working in the classroom for 12 years. I was happy, but I knew there was something still missing; as an artist and spiritual person, I was ready to explore and expand my creativity to create a positive and bigger impact in the community. I started focusing my free time in building a garden curriculum that was aligned with the S.C. standards and the Montessori principles. I asked for additional time and space to make the programs happen in the school—just to see if the vision I had could go somewhere, and it did.
The project started thanks to the support of many people, including small donations from the school’s PTA and a LOWE’s grant; my dear friend and EHG’s co-founder and farm liaison Alexandra Seaman; the open hearts of Helen and Joseph Fields; and the approval and constant support of the Charleston County School District (CCSD), administrators and teachers.
What is the mission of your organization?
EHG is a nonprofit organization created to support our Charleston public school children’s well-being. The curriculum offers in-school gardening, cooking, baking, onsite farm education and a schoolwide CSA (community supported agriculture) program: The Healthy Basket. We also help students to understand the importance of sustainability and to develop a healthy lifestyle and relationship with food.
EHG connects the CCSD, Montessori schools and families with a local organic farm: Joseph Fields Farm. The pinnacle of our program is taking the middle schools, from different Charleston public Montessori schools, out to the farm for agricultural education, practice growing and cooking, and an opportunity to develop entrepreneurial skills.
How do you serve the lowcountry?
The merging of the school garden and a local farm creates a unique opportunity for our students to be immersed in a healthy learning environment. The program encourages our students to grow, prepare and cook food, as well as to understand the importance of agriculture, business and nutritional education. As students invest time and energy into the garden, they are gaining knowledge in various scientific studies, and conducting experiments and investigations at their grade level.
The program provides hands-on curriculum-based lessons for advancing interdisciplinary learning in math, science, reading and language arts while providing opportunities for adolescents to experience an authentic farming and business experience. Students gain practical, real world skills, which support the vision of Dr. Maria Montessori.
What volunteer opportunities do you have for the public?
We need assistance on the farm, in the garden, cooking at the schools, building structures at the schools, craft projects for our kids’ market, and fundraising to help our organization exist. Volunteer opportunities can be found at Earth-HeartGrowers.org.
What have been some of the greatest successes of your organization?
Everything has been a success, from the gardening at the school, the cooking, CSA, and everything in between. The connection between Joseph Fields Farm and the school district’s Montessori middle school program is probably the highlight of what we do.
In addition to volunteering, how can people get involved?
We offer private group farm field trips to Joseph Fields. This is an authentic EHG experience on the farm. (A percentage of the total fee will support EHG.)
We also offer private group lessons in cooking, baking and crafting from recycled materials. (Eighty percent of the profit goes to EHG.)
Enrolling in Joseph Fields Farm’s CSA is another way to help. Individuals, corporations and neighborhoods can get organic local produce while supporting the farmer and EHG. The Healthy Basket CSA for schools will also support our efforts. (A percentage of the CSA sales will go to EHG.)
EHG sponsorship packages are available online or by request. Other donations are greatly appreciated and can be made by calling 843-906-6084 or online at Earth-HeartGrowers.org.Type your paragraph here.