Volunteers to Celebrate Earth Day at Sugg Middle School's Urban Farm

The Giving Coast

Photo of student at Sugg Urban Farm, courtesy of Manatee County School District

When Manatee County Schools called on Future Farmers of America (FFA) advisor for Manatee County, Kimberley Lough, asking if she could teach agriculture classes for the students and become the school's Environment Specialist, she jumped at the opportunity. FFA is an intracurricular youth organization for those interested in agriculture and leadership through hands-on experiences. Excited to bring agricultural and agriscience education to the students of Sugg Middle School, Lough built the school’s "urban farm," hydroponics program and small animal and horticulture program from the ground up. She credits partnerships with businesses, horticulture mentors, the Florida Nursery Growers and Landscape Association and the UF/IFAS (University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Services) as critical to the development of her school programs.  

"We compost weekly using food scraps that the cafeteria give us from their meal preparations (not from scraping student plates) and shredded office paper as a recycling effort," shares Lough. "The worms decompose the materials to make castings. We harvest the castings about 1x/year and it is a nutrient-rich organic fertilizer which I blend into the soil of our orchard trees." Orchard trees which Lough says harvest pineapples, papayas and bananas all year long. "I was planning to have 1-2 classes harvest the castings from some of them in honor of Earth Day," she says.

Also in honor of Earth Day this Saturday, a team of volunteers from United Way Suncoast and Publix will be heading to Sugg's urban farm to do their part in nourishing and revitalizing the local environment. Volunteers will be getting their hands and boots dirty maintaining the same worm composting bins the students maintain all year long. They'll also be helping with various projects like painting and refurbishing pallets that are used in the garden plots that frow watermelon, tomatoes, squash, turnips, lettuce, radish, okra and much more. Meanwhile, a small group will be building a few boards for outside bulletins and garden note sheets. "We have two 50-gallon rain barrels on our school farm also," Lough shares. "We use these daily to provide water for our rabbits, hens and rooster, and also use them for random cleaning projects—mixing disinfectants for cleaning animal area tools and equipment and for watering plants time to time." 

Earth Day is Saturday, April 24, 2021. This event takes place at Sugg Middle School Urban Farm, located at 3801 59th St. West in Bradenton, from 8am until Noon. 

Photo of student at Sugg Urban Farm, courtesy of Manatee County School District

Learn more about Kimberley Lough, Manatee County School's Environment Specialist

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