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Community garden to provide ‘outdoor classroom’ for kids

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    McCAMMON, Idaho (East Idaho News) — A community garden project getting underway in McCammon aims to give elementary students a hands-on learning experience.

Construction on the half-acre garden is slated to begin later this summer next to Mountain View Elementary at 704 Center Street.

Aaron Hunsaker is one of seven people on the McCammon Action Council, the committee that’s spearheading the project. He tells the role the garden will play is still being fleshed out, but he envisions it becoming “an outdoor classroom for the school.”

“Fewer and fewer people are exposed to farming,” Hunsaker says. “Our goal is to … help kids learn how to grow (their own plants). We want to do composting, plant fruit trees, flowers and maybe experiment with other stuff. Hopefully, it makes learning fun and instills in them an excitement in seeing the fruits of their labor.”

Hunsaker says they’d also like to have an outdoor seating area around the garden and eventually, a solar-powered greenhouse. He anticipates it being a project that continually evolves and changes as students participate throughout the year.

“Bringing the community in for certain aspects of it (is also something we’re considering), like selling seedlings, planting tulips to sell for Mother’s Day or doing a seed swap in the fall. The school does a fall carnival and so we’ve thought maybe we can turn part of it into a pumpkin patch that becomes part of the festival.”

Providing opportunities for kids to get outside and connect with nature is another important component of the program, says Hunsaker.

The desire to teach kids about growing a garden stems, in part, from his experience working on his family’s farm growing up. He wanted to pass on that knowledge to kids who aren’t familiar with that lifestyle, including his own kids.

“I grew up farming gardens and I knew all that. My kids don’t know any of that,” Hunsaker said in an interview with KPVI. “Our kids maybe are losing the knowledge or not growing up where their food comes from.”

He’s hoping the garden will be ready for students to use this fall at the start of the new school year. In the meantime, Hunsaker and his team are busy raising funds for the project.

Since last fall, they’ve been able to raise $12,000, thanks to donations from Intermountain Gas, Bingham Memorial Hospital, Idaho Central Credit Union and other businesses.

A big chunk of that money came from a $5,500 grant provided by Rocky Mountain Power.

“We’re excited to support them,” Company spokeswoman Tiffany Erickson says. “We’re committed to serving communities in the west while also sustaining the planet. This is a good way to assist the community (in that effort).”

The total cost of the garden is $25,000. Though fundraising is going to be an ongoing process, Hunsaker says the funds they’ve raised give them enough to begin the project.

“It will allow us to go in and prep the whole area. We want to put in an underground water system, put in the raised beds and get the basics for that to start functioning. The greenhouse will come when all the funds are obtained,” he says. “Whether or not we raise it all, the garden will still happen. How it will function will be a little different until we come up with the rest of the funds.”

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