Prescott Moms Blog: Heirlooms in the Classroom

Courtesy photo

Courtesy photo

When T and I got married here in Prescott, I wanted a cute, simple way to combine seating assignments with a party favor and chose to do so with little packets of seeds. I went through a local heirloom seed company located in Chino Valley.

For the wedding we ordered just under 100 heirloom Genovese basil seed packets and labeled each with our guests' names. I stuck the packets of seeds in an old wooden crate filled with red lentil beans and called it a day. Our guests appreciated the thoughtful gesture and many kept in touch to report news of their successful plantings. That fall, I planted the leftover seed packets and had some of the freshest and best tasting basil I can ever recall. It was good in pasta, to make a ton of yummy pesto and T's favorite: basil, balsamic vinaigrette, tomato and mozzarella salad. Since then, I've coveted getting the yearly seed catalog and choosing the yummiest seeds.

Heirloom seeds are GMO (genetically modified organisms) free and open-pollinated, meaning they can be pollinated by the classic means (bees, butterflies, etc.) rather than through grafting and such.

The other great thing about heirlooms is that when the seeds are saved and used year after year, they begin to adapt to their locale, making for better crops. In addition, heirloom seeds are often of varieties that were planted for generations and are no longer used on a large agricultural scale, meaning that the fruits and vegetables provided often pack a bigger punch of flavor.

Recently, that local seed company has decided to branch out and begin the "Grow With Us" seed fundraising program for local schools and kids groups to participate in. Owner Cindy explains, "The idea is to provide children with a healthy alternative to selling candy, cookies or popcorn for school fundraising events." With this program, local organizations and schools have a way to raise money for whatever they need and at the same time offer an educational experience for the students.

Cindy describes how the program idea formed: "We have been working with the Yavapai County Food Plan and the Farm to School grant that PUSD received and wanted a way to help schools achieve their goals. I would love to see a garden in every school in the county and across the state."

It's a pretty brilliant idea when you think about it. How many of us parents end up buying most of the items our kids sell for a fundraiser? With the "Grow With Us" program, kids will be selling something that will enrich their own environment and provide their families with healthy, inexpensive food to eat.

So it works like this: for every seed collection sold, the school makes 50 percent of the profit. There are six collections of packets and each is fun, unique and child-friendly. The Pizza Patch comes with basil, tomato, oregano and pepper. The Fun to Grow collection includes watermelon, cowpea, amaranth and corn.

When your child goes back to school, mention this program to his or her teachers and play your part in helping to enrich our community. Happy planting!

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