This semester, Woody Gap School is offering our first course in sustainable agriculture. “Why sustainable agriculture?” you might ask.
Agriculture is “sustainable” if the methods we use today ensure that our children and grandchildren will be able to grow, healthful abundant food on the very same ground for generations into the future. Nature is teacher, and we are students learning how microbes, and minerals, plants, water, and air function to create abundance in living ecosystems. We think that sustainable agriculture is a terrific course to get students learning deeply and applying what they learn about the science of agriculture.
This semester’s first sustainable agriculture class will be building the first phase of our sustainable raised bed garden and sharing lessons with younger students and even with the community. Junior Matthew Woody explains what the class has been up to during January: “In Sustainable Ag we have been learning about how to take a soil sample. We sent it off to Logan Labs to see what we need to make the soil’s PH levels higher and to increase its fertility. We have been discussing what different mineral deficiencies look like and what they do to the plants. We also discussed how to get water down to the garden. We are going to build raised beds. Hopefully we will get to cultivate mushrooms. In the high tunnel we are planning on planting stuff like tomatoes, peppers, etc. Also, we are going to collect scion wood from apple trees to graft to rootstock.”
With his high school classmates in mind, fellow junior Ernest Waldroup shared his take on sustainable agriculture so far: “The sustainable ag class teaches students about gardening techniques that help the Earth and all of its life forms rather than harm them, and is very fun! There is relatively little book work, but what book work there is so far, it all pertains directly to what we're learning or practicing, and none of it is dry or too technical. Mostly, we've discussed how best to collect water, how to get water to the garden, how much we need, and we've had our soil tested to see how healthy it is. We haven't gotten to the actual garden part yet, but that's understandable for January. All in all, this class requires serious thought, consideration, and no small amount of math; but it is fun, and you can see how everything you learn can be applied right then, rather than learning skills in school and applying them years later in a career. This class is one of the most applicable and fun classes that is offered here at Woody Gap.”
Stay tuned for updates throughout the semester as we plant a permaculture-style fruit tree guild, learn about no-till planting methods and cover crops, prepare the Mountain Heritage garden for school planting day in May, and build the sustainable raised bed garden.