Students ready to get growing at Howe Farm

Outdoor classrooms and community gardens could soon join these facilities at Howe Farm County Park. - File Photo
Outdoor classrooms and community gardens could soon join these facilities at Howe Farm County Park.
— image credit: File Photo

Now that a plan to add living classrooms to Howe Farm County park was approved by the boards of both the South Kitsap School District and the Kitsap County commissioners, local teachers and students are getting ready to hit the ground running — or digging, as it were.

“We’re hoping to get some activities started this spring,” said Thomas Mosby, the director of South Kitsap High School’s Career and Technical Education department, which has thriving agriculture and horticulture programs that would benefit greatly from having more room, quite literally, to grow.

Currently, SKHS students who want to raise animals such as pigs and sheep but don’t live on a farm can do so at the school’s farm facility up the hill from the football field. And while the existing pens and land are far too small to house larger animals such as cattle, there is more than enough room available at Howe Farm, which spans a total of 83 acres.

“We could not only have steer, we could also grow hay, and have a bigger greenhouse,” said Carrie Stewart, who raised animals at the school’s farm and was president of its Future Farmers of America Club before graduating last year.

In February of 2007, while the Kitsap County Parks Advisory Board was getting ready to vote on the proposed agreement between the SKSD, The Washington State University Extension’s Master Gardeners’ program and Kitsap Dog Parks Corp., Stewart and fellow student Aaron Vetter talked about how having more space would expand their learning opportunities.

“We just want to be able to do more — we’re very limited up here (at the school farm),” said Vetter, then a junior, explaining how the high school’s agriculture program was focused nearly exclusively on animals. “But there’s so much more to it that we really don’t have the space for here.”

Horticulture science teacher Denise Watson agreed, saying she would love to have places outside for her students to grow plants and crops.

“We’d like to have a pumpkin patch, and probably an outdoor space to grow something for each season,” Watson said. “There is nowhere now we can plant outside.”

And the students are so eager to get their hands in the new dirt, Mosby said that although the agreement was still technically waiting for signatures last Friday, many have already started planning.

“They’re studying how much water there is and how much they may need to irrigate,” Mosby said, explaining that evaluating the water needs will help them determine how to move forward with planting.

“You may start seeing some kids out there starting to map some things out,” he said, explaining that the school has been given permission to make plans as they wait for the official paperwork.

And after two years of meetings, discussions and the hashing out of details, Mosby said everyone is ready to get to work.

“It is very exciting,” said Mosby, who has described the plan to have learning gardens for both students and the community as a “win-win” for everybody, including the environment.

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