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ECPPS has big plans for demonstration farm

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Northeastern High School agriculture education teacher Ted Manzer watches as students (l-r) Tyler Raduns, Owen Boyce, Alex Kockler, Sim Hurdle and Madison Wooten work at the Elizabeth City-Pasquotank Public Schools’ Harris Demonstration Farm off Creek Road, on Wednesday.

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By Reggie Ponder
Staff Writer

Monday, September 9, 2019

Within a year or so agriculture students in the Elizabeth City-Pasquotank Public Schools may be growing produce on the school district’s new “demonstration farm” as part of their fundraising efforts for FFA activities.

Students could also be growing some of the produce served in cafeterias of the district’s schools.

Both projects are big undertakings, and the farm-to-table project for local school cafeterias is more of a dream than a plan at this time. But local school officials believe the sky is the limit as the district discovers ways to make use of the new Harris Demonstration Farm.

Located on Creek Road, the farm is on land donated to ECPPS last year by Steve Harris, a local farmer for whom the farm is named. Local FFA students worked on improvements to the farm over the summer and the high school and middle school agriculture classes plan to use it for various educational activities during the 2019-20 school year.

In addition, the FFA wants to use the farm for growing some of the produce that students raise for fundraising purposes and to satisfy requirements of the Supervised Agricultural Experience program.

The FFA in fact has sought approval from the Elizabeth City-Pasquotank Board of Education to sell student-grown produce as a club fundraiser this year. Other FFA fundraising projects include the annual fall and spring plant sales and a barbecue dinner.

School board members broached the idea of the FFA using the farm to grow produce for some of their fundraisers during a recent committee meeting.

Rhonda James-Davis, ECPPS director of Career and Technical Education, said there are plans to do that, although it might not begin right away.

Board of Education Chairwoman Sharon Warden asked if district officials had considered using produce grown on the demonstration farm in the district’s school cafeterias.

James-Davis replied that, while there is no current project to do that, the district did apply for a farm-to-table grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture about three years ago. The grant was not funded, she said.

In a followup interview, James-Davis said the USDA could continue to explore the possibility of a farm-to-table partnership with the district’s child nutrition program. However, that would require extensive upgrades to the demonstration farm, including restrooms and other onsite facilities that would allow the student project to garner GAP (Good Agricultural Practices) certification.

That could remain a ways in the future.

But it’s a possibility that local school officials find intriguing and might explore in the years ahead.

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