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Organic produce grown by students will soon be for sale at Farm Market
Lanier Charter Career Academy has been working on project for year
Hunter Cash tends to vegetables and herbs in raised beds Tuesday morning at Lanier Charter Career Academy as students prepare for the Friday opening of the Farm Market at the school.

Farm Market opening and festival

What: Organic local produce and cut flowers for sale

When: Open 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday; fall festival from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday

Where: 2723 Tumbling Creek Road, Gainesville

More info: Lanier Charter Career Academy, 770-531-2330

Organic, locally-grown produce can be expensive and hard to find.

But students at Lanier Charter Career Academy have been growing local vegetables, herbs and flowers for the last year, and this week they are ready to sell.

The Farm Market at the academy will be open for the first time Friday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and again Saturday for the school’s Fall Festival from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

“I love how it turned out,” said Deidra Loving, an LCCA student and Goodwill intern who has worked on preparing the market for the last year. “It’s been cool to kind of watch it develop. I watched them pour the concrete, and now here we are.”

Each week, horticulture students will arrange flowers and cut produce for sale. Students from other school programs will also periodically have items for sale, such as decorated mason jars from students in the alternative learning program or potpourri from students in the cosmetology program.

“All the money they make goes back into their program,” Loving said.

Horticulture instructor Shay Grant said they are hopeful the community will come out in support of the students’ efforts.

“We’re excited,” Grant said. “We hope people are going to make their way down here. The festival will have hayrides, carnival games, a chili cook-off. We need some people to enter the cook-off … but it’s going to be a lot of fun.”

The festival and the open hours Friday will give the community a chance to see what students have been doing in the campus garden, which includes a number of raised beds, a greenhouse and a large, enclosed garden protected from deer and larger wildlife.

The school’s garden is currently growing a number of crops, including lettuce, cabbage, jalapeno, broccoli, turnips, kale, spinach, peppers, carrots and fresh flowers including lavender and sunflowers.

“Right now, it’s kind of between seasons,” Loving said. “It’s cool season, but we still have some okra coming up. We have different cabbages, collards, and we’re still growing sunflowers, because we cut flower arrangements to sell along with produce.”

Products in the market will vary daily depending on availability. Loving said more than 200 students have had a hand in the gardens over the last year.

“We started working on building the farmer’s market last year around this time,” Loving said. “I worked through the summer. You know, we had to keep all this alive. So it’s really an ongoing project.”

Grant said the school has plans to continue growing, as well. Habitat for Humanity of Hall County's Habitat High program is building a barn on the property. The project was on hold temporarily because of finances, but Loving said construction began again this week

“Hopefully it will be done by the end of the school year,” she said. “We’d have animals, like chickens, pigs, maybe some goats.”

Senior Jacob Patton said he enjoys working in the large, enclosed garden, where students can get their hands dirty planting. His classmate Alex Villalobos said he enjoys the horticulture program because gardening is already something he shares with his father.

“Here we plant different types of vegetables, like collard greens, beets, turnips,” Villalobos said. “My dad plants tomatoes, watermelon and corn at home, so I help him with that.”

Grant said the horticulture program will continue to grow as the market succeeds. She said it’s given students like Loving, Villalobos and Patton a chance to try their hand at a future hobby or career.

“The kids really enjoy it,” she said. “You can see it. Sometimes I’ll say, ‘We’re going outside today,’ and they might complain because it’s cold or something. But they get out here, and they don’t want to leave.”

Farm Market opening and festival

What: Organic local produce and cut flowers for sale

When: Open 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday; fall festival from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday

Where: 2723 Tumbling Creek Road, Gainesville

More info: Lanier Charter Career Academy, 770-531-2330

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