Published on 10/26/18

Gwinnett County students grow kale centerpieces for statewide Farm to School celebration

By Merritt Melancon

When Georgia Organics needed centerpieces for their annual Golden Radish Farm to School Awards luncheon, where did they turn? To school gardeners, of course.

Students at Lawrenceville Elementary School and Radloff Elementary School grew almost 90 kale plants for the event and turned 70 of them into centerpieces. Each plant was transplanted into a decorative pot and given away as a door prize at the end of the awards ceremony, avoiding the waste sometimes associated with decorative greenery.

Kim Fritz, an Agriculture and Natural Resources program assistant with University of Georgia Cooperative Extension in Gwinnett County, helped organize the kale-growing effort. The project was an excellent way to highlight Gwinnett County Public Schools’ Farm to School program, which earned the Gold Level Golden Radish Award at this year’s ceremony, Fritz said.

According to Georgia Organics, the Golden Radish committee recognized Gwinnett County Schools’ Farm to School program because:

  • All 132 schools held multiple taste tests per month with local produce.
  • Teachers integrated farm-to-school topics, like farming, edible crops, plant life cycle and milking cows into their standards-based lesson plans.
  • Each school completed four in-service trainings with content directly related to farm-to-school programming.

Many schools started growing kale this October to celebrate Farm to School month with Georgia Organics’ “Kickin’ it with Kale” curriculum pack, but students at Radloff Middle and Lawrenceville Elementary started their kale plants in September. Having a goal helped to focus the students’ attention on their school gardens, Fritz said.

“Being a teacher myself, I knew that when you set a purpose for something in the classroom, motivation is a lot higher,” Fritz said. “I thought, if they had a purpose for growing this kale, they’ll have a lot more enthusiasm — and they really did.”

Students at Lawrenceville Elementary School started their kale seeds in their school’s greenhouse, while students at Radloff Middle School grew their plants from seedlings grown by the inmates at the Fresh Start Garden at the Gwinnett County Jail.

Inmates and Gwinnett County Master Gardener Extension Volunteers contributed plants to the centerpiece project to provide backups in case one school experienced a crop failure.

For more information about the growing opportunities at the UGA Extension office in Gwinnett County, visit For more information about Georgia Organics and the Golden Radish Awards, visit

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