School gardens up for grabs in Baraboo and Portage

August 24, 2018

Learning about the environment should occur outside and in the dirt for elementary school contest winners in Portage and Baraboo.

Festival Foods in partnership with Dole Packaged Foods launched a contest Wednesday aiming to build one Captain Planet Foundation “Learning Garden” for each school district. The contest calls on community members to contact local school leaders to submit applications for the gardens, which would include lesson kits with supplies, cooking carts and tips for garden maintenance, according to a news release from the contest sponsors.

“What kid wouldn’t want to help grow a garden?” said Samantha Petersen, a community involvement specialist with Festival Foods. The gardens, Petersen said, give students the opportunity to learn about natural systems, food origins and eating healthy – all of this occurring outside via hands-on activities.

“This is really about getting food into the hands of kids. In the garden they get to build something from start to finish,” she said.

The deadline for contest entries is Sept. 21. Interested schools should apply for the learning gardens online at captainplanetfoundation.org/contest/festivalfoods or festfoods.com.

“Essentially, schools only need space for the garden” to qualify for the contest, Petersen said. Festival plans to start building the gardens for contest winners in the spring.

Portage Superintendent Margaret Rudolph and Baraboo Superintendent Lori Mueller said their districts learned of the contest Wednesday and are still reviewing its parameters.

“I think this would definitely benefit our students and looks like a great opportunity for us to collaborate with Festival Foods,” Mueller said. Among the considerations for Baraboo would be upgrading its current garden programming at West Elementary School, which already provides kindergartners with garden programming in partnership with a nearby property owner, George Buchanan.

As a member of the Baraboo Area Chamber of Commerce, Mueller noted several community contributions from Festival Foods since the store opened in Baraboo and Portage in 2017, including its funding of Fourth of July fireworks celebrations in both locations. The garden would be the first school project in partnership with Festival Foods, she said.

Dole in partnership with the Captain Planet Foundation has built more than 100 learning gardens across the U.S., including the states of New York, California and Texas, Dole spokesman Marty Ordman said. Learning gardens in Portage and Baraboo would be the first in Wisconsin and the first in partnership with Festival Foods.

“Eventually we want to reach out to other communities in Wisconsin too,” he said. “It’s a wonderful way for children to learn where their food comes from.”

Captain Planet Foundation started in 1991 and is based on the animated series “Captain Planet and the Planeteers.” The foundation’s goal is to “ensure that the next generation of business leaders and policy makers are environmentally literate citizens who leverage technology and information to manage and protect the air, land and water,” according to the news release.

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