Home & Family
AUBURN UNIVERSITY, Ala — SNAP-Ed Educators Ginger Eatman and Jennifer Palmer attended the Northwest RC&D Council Annual Conference in October thinking it would be a fun learning and networking experience.
They had no idea they were walking away with two awards to highlight their hard work with school gardens.
Supporting School Gardens
Eatman is the SNAP-Ed educator for Marion and Walker Counties. Palmer is the SNAP-Ed educator for Colbert and Lawrence County. Both have spent the past year supporting school gardens and finding ways to help students learn about growing their own food and the nutritional value that comes with it.
The two educators were invited to attend the conference by Lauranne James, executive director of the Northwest Alabama RC&D Council. Eatman and Palmer saw it as an opportunity to highlight SNAP-Ed’s role in school gardens and share information about how they could partner with schools to build and maintain gardens and provide nutrition education.
Northwest Alabama RC&D
The Northwest Alabama RC&D Council is an organization that empowers local residents to develop and carry out an action-orientated plan for social, economic and environmental enrichment of their communities, according to their website. The annual conference is attended by many stakeholders from many counties, including Marion, Colbert, Winston, Franklin and Lauderdale.
James said Eatman and Palmer are excellent partners who truly love helping students learn about everything it takes to grow gardens.
“They are both superheroes, and we look forward to helping them and others to make more projects grow as we go forward in the future,” James said.
How It All Came Together
Earlier in the year, James reached out to Eatman about additional funds available through an RC&D program called The Garden Grows Project. The Garden Grows Project provides schools, churches and other organizations with seeds, materials and soil at no cost to grow fresh produce.
James informed Eatman there was about $3,400 for Marion County and additional funds for the other counties RC&D serves, including Colbert.
James and Eatman partnered together to identify resources to help school gardens supported by Eatman. Eventually, James purchased the items that were spread out among Eatman’s five county schools with gardens.
Hackleburg Elementary and High School installed an in-ground row garden this past spring. The resources obtained this fall included a wheelbarrow, posthole diggers, shovels, rakes, hoes, water hoses and water cans.
Hamilton Elementary received materials for four additional raised beds. The school is already home to 10 raised beds. Guin Elementary received a couple rolling vegetable carts, fresh soil and other plants.
Phillips High School received materials for two raised beds, and Brilliant Elementary obtained materials to raise their existing garden beds another layer.
“Each school got something different, but it was all things that they wanted,” Eatman said.
All Falling Into Place
When Eatman learned additional funds were available for Colbert County, she reached out to Palmer.
Palmer had recently learned through the principal at Hatton Elementary that they were interested in starting a school garden. She felt the timing couldn’t be more perfect for such an opportunity.
“It felt like everything was falling into place,” she said.
After meeting with James, Palmer identified the need for lumber, soil, and fertilizer to build six raised beds for the school. James purchased the equipment, and Palmer went to work with the help of a few school employees.
She also acquired about 25 bags of soil to help support the Leighton Public Library raised beds in Colbert County.
Eatman and Palmer were awarded the 2021 Super Hero Award.
“Jennifer and I were very excited,” Eatman said. “We were enjoying talking to people at our table and enjoying the whole atmosphere when Jennifer’s name was called for an award. Her first reaction was to look at me and say, ‘did you know anything about this,’ and sure enough, I didn’t.”
“It was a very humbling experience to be recognized in our efforts to make a difference,” Eatman said.
Palmer said she’s often too busy doing the work to support gardens, providing education to the communities she serves to think about receiving an award for it.
“It just shows that they value our partnership, which is rewarding because we all want to help people as much as we can,” Jennifer said. “I just thought it was neat that they actually recognized all the work that has to happen before things are planted.”
To contact Eatman, SNAP-Ed educator in Marion and Walker counties, call (205) 921-3551 or email her at email@example.com.
To contact Palmer, SNAP-Ed educator in Colbert and Lawrence Counties, call (256) 974-2464 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To learn more about SNAP-Ed and the work of educators throughout Alabama, visit www.LiveWellAlabama.com or visit them on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest.