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Bright future: Students get growing with garden

Jay Sowers / The Natchez Democrat — Trinity Episcopal Day School student Tucker Lewis secures a section of fencing around a garden at the school while working with classmates Wednesday morning.
Jay Sowers / The Natchez Democrat — Trinity Episcopal Day School student Tucker Lewis secures a section of fencing around a garden at the school while working with classmates Wednesday morning.

NATCHEZ — Tucker Lewis and Dre McCoy knew they needed more experience in agriculture before leaving high school.

“I want to study forestry, and (McCoy) wants to study agriculture, so we wanted to do something that would help us out when we go to college,” said Lewis, an 11th-grade student at Trinity Episcopal Day School. “The school first said they wanted to build some trails around the buildings, and then it just kind of kept growing from there.”

Lewis, McCoy and other Trinity students began discussing the idea of expanding the walking trails project into a botanical garden that would incorporate the trails with a variety of other amenities such as a coy pond and a garden.

Trinity science teacher Michael Kinney said the project began as a way to get his botany and zoology students to apply the material they learned inside the classroom outside, while giving something back to the school.

“This was a completely student-driven project,” Kinney said. “They’ve done a great job so far.”

Jay Sowers / The Natchez Democrat — Students Jacob Sandrock, from left, Dre McCoy and Jake Pender work to hangs a section of chain link fencing around a class garden. Several of the crops planted in the garden have been eaten by animals, so the students spent some time putting up the fences.
Jay Sowers / The Natchez Democrat — Students Jacob Sandrock, from left, Dre McCoy and Jake Pender work to hangs a section of chain link fencing around a class garden. Several of the crops planted in the garden have been eaten by animals, so the students spent some time putting up the fences.

The garden project required all materials to be donated by family or community members or recycled materials brought in by the students.

Other students, such as Jacob Sandrock, brought in tools and other equipment to help with the construction of the garden.

Dozens of railroad ties, which now serve as a border for the trail that wraps around the garden and leads to the coy pond, were among the more welcomed donations, McCoy said.

“Those helped us out a lot,” he said, while balancing on one of the ties like a balance beam. “Everybody likes to walk on these.”

The materials fund for the garden recently got an extra boost when the students and school won the City Challenge for Our Children, a contest sponsored by the Gaining Ground Sustainability Institute of Mississippi Natchez chapter.

The challenge encouraged local churches and schools to build a garden and learn about sustainable living.

The winners were announced at the Natchez Earthfest, and Lewis said the $300 award money will go toward buying more materials to finish the coy pond.

“We want to put some nice, big white landscaping rocks around the pond to pull it all together,” Lewis said. “It’s going to look good when we’re done.”

Part of the garden project also includes an outdoor classroom, which will be located behind the coy pond and available for the school’s teachers, Lewis said.

The students currently have a variety of fruits and vegetables planted in the garden, including tomatoes, okra, eggplant and strawberries, among others.

Hungry deer and rabbits in the area, however, have been the only ones to reap the benefits of the garden so far, Lewis said.

“We’re going to put stakes in around the fence to make sure they don’t get in anymore,” he said. “They’ve been eating all our strawberries.”