WA Grows is an exciting initiative run by students designed to grow and donate produce for the community around Woodward, and it has recently been admitted to the Georgia Department of Agriculture's "Georgia Grown" program. This allows the WA Grows team access to the Georgia Grown community, its forum, and resources, and grants the group permission to use the Georgia Grown logo. According to their program website, "Georgia Grown is... a brand with deep roots, sustainability, quality, and integrity." This endorsement and identifier has become quite popular and prestigious among Georgia restaurants and businesses and the hope is that this relationship will be beneficial both for WA Grows and for Woodward Academy.
Read more about WA Grows below!
by Naomi Censullo ‘20
Chick-fil-A biscuit and soda cup in hand, students meandering from the parking lots rapidly increase their pace as the 8:15 bell resounds across campus, signaling the start of their day. Behind the Carlos Science Building, this bell is a cue for Student Leadership Board and WA Grows leaders Brendan Bagwell ‘20 and Arun Rama-Krishnan ‘20 to take off their gloves and put away their shovels. These students and many other WA Grows members work morning and night to keep the beds full of spinach, arugula, and squash.
A lot of work goes on behind the scenes in order to keep the gardens alive and producing. With intentions of benefiting the community, WA Grows is an integral way the school gives back to the surrounding College Park area. A fairly new subset of the Student Leadership Board, WA Grows started two years ago, taking over the vacant garden beds that were once used for academic purposes.
"The opportunity arose for a new service and educational opportunity to engage WA students in discussions about service, sustainability, and the ways fresh produce can positively impact a community,” said Ms. Marianne Lecesne, the faculty sponsor of the club.
WA Serves members can sign up to help on Helper Helper. Volunteers plant, water, weed, pick, and maintain the beds throughout the growing seasons. Vegetables are planted according to their growing season and the predicted date of the last harvest. Right now, there is a plan to move several different types of vegetables outside to replace the squash and zucchini that have already been harvested. The plants are in a constant rotation of planting, picking, and replanting in order to maximize the amount of produce grown and donated. A completely separate entity from Garden Club, WA Grows students can receive service hours for coming out during lunch or tutorial to assist with the planting or watering of the garden beds.
“All produce grown by WA Grows is donated to Love Beyond Walls and Family Life Ministries,” said Bagwell. “We have donated over 265 pounds of squash and zucchini along with green beans and other vegetables to Family Life Ministries so far this year and have received fabulous feedback from the beneficiaries that obtain food from them.”
Under the new leadership of this year's Student Leadership Board, WA Grows has made some vital changes in order to produce more food for donation.
“At the beginning of the year, I told myself that I would change the entire outlook and effectiveness of WA Grows,” said Bagwell. “Last year, WA Grows grew plants in two to four grow beds at most, and the greenhouse looked like a storage shed. Earlier this year, Arun and I met at the greenhouse one weekend and looked at each other and said, ‘What a waste.’ The greenhouse has been [underutilized] year after year, and with the help and resources from Ms. Lecense, Arun and I were able to completely change the appearance and functionality of the greenhouse thus making WA Grows one of the most impactful service projects at Woodward Academy. “
Members are constantly striving to better the greenhouse and maximize efficiency.
“Arun and I set up a sprinkler system inside of the greenhouse using old sprinklers that hadn't been used for years and PVC pipes in every bed,” said Bagwell. “In addition, we have experimented with a variety of methods of germination to find out for ourselves what the fastest method of growing certain types of plants is.”
The group’s vision for the future success of the club does not stop there. They set up an active Instagram account, @wagrows, in order to network and spread awareness of the gardens. The account posts weekly updates on the status of the beds, the number of donations made, and gardening memes.
The life growing in the beds mirrors the love growing amongst the WA Grows members for the environment and their surrounding community. It is a great opportunity to experience a tangible product of one’s constant hard work and dedication.
“My involvement in WA Grows helped me make unlikely friends and build closer, more meaningful relationships with teachers who I did not expect to," said Rama-Krishnan. "It opened my eyes to the impact of service and how I made a new community with people I serve with and for."