Farm Credit brings urban farming to local high school



Last fall, Farm Credit staff volunteers planted vegetables in Unicoi High School's greenhouse. The crops will stock the school cafeteria.

Last fall, Farm Credit staff volunteers gathered at Unicoi High School’s greenhouse to help plant vegetables in raised beds. The school’s vo-ag and FFA students will tend the crops, which will ultimately stock their school cafeteria. 

The school community will benefit twice: Students and staff will enjoy fresh, locally-grown produce, and the school district will save money on its food budget. After a pilot project last year, the program is currently putting vegetables in the Unicoi cafeteria, but the goal for the future is to supply all school cafeterias in the district, improving nutrition throughout a county where many students don’t get enough fresh produce. 

The work day was our latest investment in the school’s vo-ag program. In the past year, we’ve donated a large greenhouse, helped buy a pickup truck and donated weed-resistant mats to the school.
Lucas Anders, Unicoi vo-ag teacher and FFA adviser, said the greenhouse project has created opportunities for the ag students to learn skills on a whole new level. 

“They’re learning about the total business cycle — planting, growing, harvesting, marketing, financial tracking and much more,” he said. “Farm Credit has been a real blessing to us. Their people come from ag backgrounds and understand the importance of what we’re trying to do with our students. Literally everyone here — from the superintendent down to our kindergarten students — has been positively impacted.”

Another contributor to the October 28 effort was Master Organic Soil Solutions, of Mountain City, Tenn., which donated worm castings, a high-quality natural fertilizer with nitrogen-fixing capabilities similar to legumes. Several of MOSS’s partners are customers of Farm Credit Mid-America.  The donated worm castings will also give Unicoi ag students an opportunity to do research on that fertilizer compared to conventional fertilizers. 

Jerry Love, financial officer in Farm Credit’s Johnson City office, said the investments have also benefitted the general student body by helping them better understand where their food comes from.

“What better way for Farm Credit to support local education than for kids to be able to learn firsthand how their food is produced,” he said.