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Pride students growing Food Forest

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By Kyle Mooty

LPR Editor

Starting a garden was one thing, starting a food forest was another. Having students take their produce home and cook it for their families took special to a new level.

Lockhart ISD’s Pride High School — all 61 students – are taking part in their new adventure. The garden began in the spring, but with the help of Peters and Chaparral Coffee’s Austin Burge, they have transformed a 3,000-square foot fenced area on Pine Street into a food forest.

Pride Principal Ethan Peters said a food forest is more than your typical garden planted in rows.

“We are basically mimicking what it would be like in the forest,” Peters said. “It’s an ecosystem like in the wild. A lot of plants work together, and others kill each other.

“Our goal is to create a community food forest where we can use the food we grow to teach cooking classes, cook food for events, host farmers markets and more.”

The food forest will have trees — pecan, peach, plum, apple, pomegranate, and fig – as well as a variety of vegetables — beets, turnips, carrots, greens, asparagus, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, herbs, tomatoes, and peppers.

A GoFund Me page was established to help raise fund for the garden, hoping to reach $2,000. As of Friday, the page had already raised $1,175. (Search Pride High School Food Forest Project GoFund Me to visit the site.)

“Our kids spend about three days a week on it,” Peters said. “Once we start planting, they will probably be out here every day. Right now they are watering by hand. We might use the funds we’re raising to have a more robust irrigation system. We have decent rain in the fall, just hardly any in the summer. The kids designed everything.”

The aim was to create an all-seasons garden for the food. The plants could not be enjoyed by students during the summer months while they were away, but now they will have produce all year round.

“The goal is getting the kids to learn about growing the food,” Peters said. “They garden, grow, cook, and even preserve the food. We are hoping to do enough food to be a part of the Farmers Market, or maybe even have our own.”

Peters’ wife (Angela Bartys-Peters), who went to culinary school, taught a class with students at Pride High. The students took something they had grown home with recipes and cooked it. They took pictures of the finished product and brought them back.

“That was pretty cool,” Peters said. “They love it.”

The area just outside the food forest area will eventually have picnic tables for meetings and lunch, also with sandboxes for younger children.

Taylor Burge of Good Things Grocery and Chaparral Coffee described the seven layers of a forest garden as having the overstory, the understory, the shrub layer, the herbaceous layers, the root layer, and the vine layer. “Some also like to recognize the mycelial layer – layer eight (mushrooms).

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