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By Mary HightowerU of A System Division of AgricultureOct. 17, 2018
(Newsrooms: with images at https://flic.kr/p/NoqPiB, https://flic.kr/p/2c9Ct74, https://flic.kr/p/2b3GniQ)(Download this story in MS Word format here.)
SHERIDAN, Ark. – The Sheridan Intermediate School Garden, which doubles as a lab and
a source of food for the school cafeteria, has been named the overall winner in the
2018 Arkansas School Garden of the Year Contest.
The winners were announced by the Arkansas Agriculture Department and Farm Credit
of Arkansas. Other winners include:
The Overall School Garden Winner receives $1,000, and the winning schools in the remaining
categories will receive $500 each. Monetary awards are provided by Farm Credit. Arkansas
Governor Asa Hutchinson recognized winning schools during a special ceremony Oct.
10 at the Arkansas State Capitol in Little Rock.
The Sheridan garden is the product of a husband-wife partnership. Serena McGinley
is a fifth-grade math/science teacher. Her husband, Brad McGinley, is Grant County
extension staff chair for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture.
“Our school garden engages the students in learning science concepts, nutrition education,
and agriculture practices,” said Serena McGinley.
“Students love working in the garden!” she said. “They gain a deeper appreciation
and understanding of where their food comes from and the work that goes into it.
Students are more willing to try the food from our garden because they have ownership
in it — they grew it! Our garden has and continues to bring joy and a sense of pride
to our school.”
“We established this garden in 2015. It’s a joint venture with the intermediate school
where my wife, Serena, teaches fifth grade,” Brad McGinley said. “We tag-team this
In the growing season that led to the award, the garden’s eight 4-foot by 8-foot beds
served as a laboratory, enabling student to apply what they learned about the scientific
“We used the garden to conduct a strawberry variety trail,” McGinley said. The Cooperative
Extension Service conducts variety trials in several crops, determining how the plants
fare under certain growing conditions.
“We had four different varieties, and the kids did all the work,” he said. “The picked
the berries, weighed the berries, culled them, looked for spider mites and applied
the scientific method all the way through.”
In addition, being in the garden helped teach them the value of work. Some other fruits
of their labor are being shared among their classmates. On Oct. 19, the garden’s sweet
potatoes will be feeding the whole campus – about 700 students.
“Not everyone likes sweet potatoes and we want them to have a good experience,” which
is why they’ll be served up with both caramel and marshmallow sauce, McGinley said.
The potatoes are planted by the fifth graders in May and harvested when they come
back as sixth graders in the fall.
The garden is also helped along by the county’s Master Gardeners, who built it and
help maintain it when school is out, and is funded in part by the Grant County Conservation
“We greatly appreciate all our other partners for their crucial role in helping our
district establish and maintain two school gardens,” Jerrod Williams, Sheridan School
District superintendent, said.
“The school gardens have made a lasting impact on our students,” he said. “By utilizing
the gardens as outdoor classrooms, students are learning more about nutrition, agriculture
and environmental stewardship. Additionally, our students are sharpening their skills
in research methods and applied mathematics. The feedback we have received from our
students about the garden has been fantastic. They are having fun getting their hands
dirty and experiencing the joy of watching their seeds grow into fruits and vegetables.”
“School gardens bring agriculture, our state’s largest industry, to life for Arkansas
students,” Arkansas Agriculture Secretary Wes Ward said. “Congratulations to the 2018
Arkansas Grown School Garden of the Year awardees. We are honored to continue this
program another year and support school garden initiatives across Arkansas. We appreciate
the sponsorship provided by Farm Credit that makes this important program possible.”
The Arkansas Agriculture Department and Farm Credit of Arkansas started the contest
in 2014 to promote the importance of involving young people in the process of fresh
food production and cultivation. Any Arkansas school, grades pre-K-12, with a working
school garden during the 2017-2018 school year, or a startup proposal for the 2018-2019
school year was eligible to apply.
“As a farmer-owned cooperative, we believe it’s important to support local food system
initiatives such as the Arkansas Grown School Garden Program,” Farm Credit Midsouth
President and CEO, James McJunkins, said on behalf of the Farm Credit cooperatives
of Arkansas. “Local food projects like this are a great way to educate the next generation
and the public about food production and agriculture.”
About the Division of Agriculture
The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture’s mission is to strengthen
agriculture, communities, and families by connecting trusted research to the adoption
of best practices. Through the Agricultural Experiment Station and the Cooperative
Extension Service, the Division of Agriculture conducts research and extension work
within the nation’s historic land grant education system.
The Division of Agriculture is one of 20 entities within the University of Arkansas
System. It has offices in all 75 counties in Arkansas and faculty on five system campuses.
The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture is an equal opportunity/equal
access/affirmative action institution. If you require a reasonable accommodation to
participate or need materials in another format, please contact 479-575-4607 as soon
as possible. Dial 711 for Arkansas Relay.
# # #
Media Contact: Mary HightowerDir. of Communication ServicesU of A System Division of AgricultureCooperative Extension Service(501) firstname.lastname@example.org