Planting Day at Billingsville Elementary School

Planting days are dear to our hearts. They are the culmination of communal compassion, countless coordination hours and curriculum planning. They are a byproduct of partnerships and Fresh Start Kit purchases, and showcase the true measure of what Pop Up Produce is built upon – grow food, grow community. Yesterday, we had the pleasure to plant at Billingsville Elementary, a local Title 1 school, alongside our friends and supporters at Sustain Charlotte and the Sustain Charlotte Community Corps. Meg Fencil, Program Director of Sustain Charlotte, and Amanda Zullo, Founder and Owner of Pop Up Produce, co-led a presentation teaching the second grade class about sustainability, food deserts, and the importance of growing food. We shared the story of how the seeds and seedlings were chosen for their school and explained how because other people in the greater community purchased Fresh Start Kits, this group of students was able to receive the gift of growing. The students gave a loud and energetic “thank you!” for all the Fresh Start Kit owners and supporters along the way.

Meg Fencil, of Sustain Charlotte, and Amanda Zullo, of Pop Up Produce, co-led a presentation for the second grade class. All photos courtesy of Walker Visual.

Meg Fencil, of Sustain Charlotte, and Amanda Zullo, of Pop Up Produce, co-led a presentation for the second grade class. All photos courtesy of Walker Visual.

The students were all excited to step outside the classroom walls and venture out into the courtyard space, prebuilt with planting beds courtesy of the school’s partnership with Real School Gardens. The Outdoor Learning Garden, equipped with eight beds in a radial pattern, similar to a sun’s rays, allows different classrooms to have access to their own bed. Other grade levels had already planted in their respected beds. One class even started a cabbage competition!

Students plant seeds in their classroom's raised bed.

Students plant seeds in their classroom's raised bed.

Pop Up Produce Founder, Amanda Zullo, teaching students about seed spacing.

Pop Up Produce Founder, Amanda Zullo, teaching students about seed spacing.

Today’s group of volunteers helped the students prepare the beds and plant the seeds. Pulling weeds, clearing space and finding earthworms in the soil enabled an enjoyable experience. We even found a few spiders! One student exclaimed, “A tarantula!” and the other students screeched in fear as we all turned our heads in awe. Once we located the “tarantula”, I have to be honest…it definitely was not a tarantula, but most certainly was quite large! Let’s just say I’d be scared to have that little guy crawling near me if we were inside. Instead of panicking over the garden’s bugs, the students began to witness the wonders of the dirt – how insects like earthworms and yes, even spiders, contribute to the natural cycle of growing food. We all play a part in the circle of life and so do bugs. Some students even gravitated to the worms and caterpillars, picking them up and playing with them. This experience brought back memories of my own childhood when I used to find caterpillars at school during lunch and recess and bring home new “pets” to my mother’s surprise.

Finding earthworms in the garden puts a big smile on a student's face.

Finding earthworms in the garden puts a big smile on a student's face.

A volunteer helping one of the students plant in the garden.

A volunteer helping one of the students plant in the garden.

With help from the volunteers, the students planted tomato and pepper seedlings alongside bush beans, carrots and basil seeds. From the amount of smiles and hugs our group of volunteers received, I’d say today’s planting adventure at Billingsville Elementary School was a great success! We look forward to our next visit in the upcoming weeks to witness the class’ #produceprogress as their growing journey continues!