Grown With Pride: Woodland Park School Garden Recognized
Artwork by Woodland Park art teacher Marty Williams
On Sunday, Feb. 10, the Garden of Pride at Woodland Park Elementary School was named the winning Wyoming garden for the Seed Keeper Project 2019.
Each year, the Seed Keeper Project recognizes one school garden in every state and the District of Columbia with a certificate highlighting their dedication to gardening.
Woodland Park is just one Sheridan County School with a new garden thanks to Rooted in Wyoming, a nonprofit group who describe themselves as, “…a youth gardening collaboration, led by an all-volunteer staff and board of directors, dedicated to building and nurturing school and youth gardens in Sheridan County.”
The garden project at Woodland Park started in September of 2017 with the construction of a hoop-house, or cold-frame greenhouse, which means that it is not heated other than by the sunlight coming in through the plastic shell. The Wyoming Department of Agriculture Specialty Crop grant program allowed for a group from the UW Extension to travel to Sheridan with the supplies and tools to build the 16 by 32 foot structure with the help of local volunteers.
Since then, raised beds, a pumpkin patch, a sensory garden, and other additions have been made to the Garden of Pride.
Teachers Donna Johannesmeyer and Kevin Charleston are the garden leaders.
Johannesmeyer said they are already planning more additions for next year, including a user-friendly watering system that monitors moisture in the soil in order to reduce waste. Students, along with professional consultants, will get to be a part of the design process for the watering system.
Students are also planning what to grow over the summer. Shipton’s Big R donated leftover seeds from last year and the students are able to use the greenhouses at the UW Extension center to get seedlings started.
“They allow us to come in with students on a field trip and plant seeds, which the staff waters daily,” Johannesmeyer said. “When it’s time at the end of May, we have beautiful plants ready for planting.”
Woodland Park will have an assembly Feb. 28 to brag about their garden. Rooted in Wyoming will also present the school with a check from the giving tree at their Hoe Down fundraiser last fall. The giving tree had branches holding various envelopes listed with various garden needs, such as equipment, tools, and benches. Those who were interested in helping with specific needs placed their donations in the envelopes.
The property the garden sits on has a complex provenance. It is owned by Whitney Benefits, leased by Sheridan College, subleased by the UW Sheridan Research and Extension Center (ShREC), and used by the elementary school through an agreement with the school board. Johannesmeyer said that ShREC was willing to do whatever it took to make the garden happen.
“They really wanted to partner with us, and mentor us, in growing the next generation of stewards of the land and potential farmers,” she said.
Johannesmeyer has been a gardener her entire adult life. Her first degree was in marine biology, but gardening has become her most recent passion.
“Sharing that with students has been the greatest benefit,” she said.
According to the Seed Keeper Project, each winning school will receive seeds from All-America Selections, the essential gardening companion book Garden-pedia by Maria Zampini and Pamela Bennett, and slow-release fertilizer.