'Edible classroom' sprouts into success at school in Waconia, Minn.

There's more than just vegetables growing in one Waconia, Minn. garden, there's learning of a different variety.

Back in 2008, Peter Gustafson, who was principal at the time, bought a plot of land next to Clearwater Middle School with school funds.  And just a year later, the "edible classroom" sprouted up. The concept of growing food with students was plucked from a school in Berkeley, Calif.

The students' garden includes a half-acre vegetable garden, stocked with mostly gifted plants. Sometimes there are more donated seeds than room to plant them, but there's no shortage of teachable moments.

"Many of these kids have gardens at home and they'll share their knowledge with me," Michele Melius, teacher at Clearwater Middle School, said. "How great it is when a student, can actually turn into the teacher."

The garden, plus a half-acre orchard, produces nearly one-thousand pounds of fresh organically-grown food every year. The majority is distributed to the district's four schools.

"It's really important I think for kids to be able to connect to their environment, connect to their town or their city, and I think this is is just a great way for them to do it," Melius said.

The students said they enjoy seeing the visual progression of their garden.

"It's pretty cool actually because I didn't think they were going to grow this fast," Jenna, an eighth-grader, said.

Three-hundred pounds of extra produce last year was donated to the local food shelf -- that's when teachers realized they weren't just cultivating green thumbs. What started as a lesson about seed to table, grew into so much more.

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