CONCRETE — A few weeks ago, Rachel Sacco sketched on a napkin what she thought was a pipe dream for a garden at Concrete Elementary School.

Now, that garden is a reality.

“Time spent in a garden is so good for you, in so many ways,” said Sacco, coordinator for Concrete Elementary School’s Farm to School program. “Hopefully these kids will go back into their classrooms refreshed.”

The raised garden beds were built as part of a Leadership Skagit project by Team Butterfly Effect.

“They had great intentions with it,” team member Jorge Manzanera said. “(Rachel) absolutely needed some help to move it forward. It matched with our name very well ... so we could let it go grow again. We’re really proud that we chose this one.”

So far, the Concrete Elementary kids are digging it.

“It’s fun because you’re in touch with the plants and you’re in touch with nature,” sixth-grader Anja Roozen said. “And it’s neat because you get to actually eat what you’re growing.”

Last week was the first time students got to work in the new garden beds, Sacco said.

They planted strawberries, edible flowers, bok choy and cucumbers, among other plants.

“They connect to their food,” Sacco said. “We’ve seen kids eat fresh kale off the plant.”

Concrete Elementary School’s Farm to School program partners the district with United General District 304 and local farms to provide fresh produce for school lunches, as well as to encourage students to learn more about fresh food through field trips to the city’s community gardens.

Now students will have fresh produce right at their fingertips.

“We believe that this will turn around the perspective children have about food,” Manzanera said. “They will start enjoying food a little bit more and be more healthy, and it will have an impact with their families. This will bring better consciousness and more awareness about the importance of nutrition.”

In the future, it’s possible teachers could have their own gardens right outside their doors, said Mitchell Metcalf, AmeriCorps VISTA member.

“They just need the inspiration, and we’re here to give them the know-how,” he said.

For now, the new garden beds provide the right amount of space for the elementary school, Sacco said.

At this point, the goal isn’t for the garden beds to support the school’s produce needs, but rather to supplement the existing supply with herbs and to provide samples for kids to taste, she said.

“(We’re growing it) more for the educational aspect and so kids can taste the fruits of their labors,” Sacco said.

Farm to School will host a free garden kick-off celebration from 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday at Concrete Elementary School, with garden and composting demonstrations as well as a petting zoo.

— Reporter Kera Wanielista: 360-416-2141,

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