Pekin finalist for $25,000 grant
PACKWOOD — Pekin Community School District is a finalist for an America’s Farmers Grow Rural Education grant of up to $25,000.
From January through March, farmers across the country, in 1,289 counties in 39 states, nominated their local public school districts for the grants. Once nominated, these districts were eligible to submit completed grant applications in April for either a $10,000 or $25,000 grant to enhance the school district’s math and/or science curriculum.
Winning grant recipients will be announced in early August.
The Monsanto Fund will award 194 grants in 39 states, provided there were adequate qualifying entries.
Pekin High School agricultural education teacher and FFA sponsor Juston Lamb said the district has been a finalist in this grant application process a few times before.
“We are looking at creating a local food program,” he said. “FFA farms 28 acres and we have another area for a garden. We are building a high tunnel and already have a hydroponic table and a greenhouse.”
A high tunnel, or a loophouse, uses plastic siding similar to a greenhouse but plants are planted into the ground, not in pots or tables, and it can be heated or not. Hydroponic gardening uses water and minerals to grow plants without soil.
Lamb said lettuce grown in the hydroponic table has made its way into cafeteria lunches for student consumption.
“It’s on a pretty small scale right now,” he said. “If we get the grant, we want to expand our local food program. The funds would be used in cooperation with our industrial technology classes to build more garden areas and also for ag class activities. We need more testing equipment to monitor the ph levels in the water and growing conditions for our hydroponic table.”
Lamb said the expansion of the local food program at Pekin could involve more locally raised food in the school cafeteria, a type of farmers’ market or a CSA — Community Supported Agriculture shared in a cooperative manner.
The strongest grant submissions were selected as finalists and will be sent to the America’s Farmers Grow Rural Education Advisory Council for final review. A panel of educators from ineligible counties reviewed all of the grant applications.
Composed of farmer-leaders from across the U.S. with a
vested interest in both agriculture and education, the advisory council will select the winning school districts.
School districts, such as Pekin, that submitted an application for a $25,000 grant are competing against schools in their states or designated region. Iowa has 24 school districts as finalists this year.
Each Crop Reporting District could have one school that receives a $10,000 grant, and it is possible that another school in the same CRD may be awarded a $25,000 grant.
Grants will be judged based on merit, need and community support. The America’s Farmers Grow Rural Education Advisory Council, a group of up to 30 farmers from across the country, will select the winning grant
Last year, Grow Rural Education invested $165,000 in public school districts across Iowa to improve math and science curriculum. Since 2012, Iowa school districts have received $330,000 through the program.
Grow Rural Education grants have allowed rural schools to invest in the enhancement of student learning in math and science. Past grant recipients used funding for projects such as technology and scientific lab equipment upgrades, greenhouses and outdoor classroom learning environments, teacher and curriculum development and other math and science related initiatives.
This is the third annual America’s Farmers Grow Rural Education program after a successful pilot by Monsanto Company in 2011.
In 2013, more than 73,000 farmers across 1,271 counties demonstrated their support for education by nominating 3,850 school districts. Grants totaling $2.3 million were awarded to 181 grant recipients. The number of eligible counties for 2014 expanded to 1,289.