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The calendar says January, but spring has certainly sprung on Moss Haven Elementary’s Farm. In honor of President Obama and the First Lady's National Day of Service, several families from Moss Haven Elementary gathered on the school's farm on Sunday, January 19, to kick-off the spring season.  Just like the President's belief that everyone has something they can contribute to their community, and that America works best when neighbors help neighbors, students and their families gathered to prepare the farm for spring education and after-school programs. 

The Farm also has the distinction of being an American Heart Association’s Teaching Garden with dedicated crop beds for each class (a total of 21 areas!), a newly landscaped area for flowers and other plants, and a chicken coop inhabited by three beloved hens: Wilma, Betty and Marilyn Monroe (known collectively as "the girls"). Classes are known for growing their own crops and being an active part of the farming process.

On the day of service, kids were seeking out grub worms while tilling the beds for new crops and then quickly taking the grubs to "the girls." Students also placed cabbage grown by third-graders on the Moss Haven Elementary farm into the coop and, by the end of the day, all three hens were enjoying the new greens.  (Who knew hens liked cabbage?)

The Farm was also readied for a 12-gourd Purple Martin housing system recently purchased by the Moss Haven Elementary PTA that will be installed this week.  Purple Martins will migrate to Texas in the coming weeks to feed on their favorite snack, mosquitoes. By providing them a place to stay (in addition to the nice meals!), the local neighborhood and school will benefit from additional protection against the West Nile Virus, which is carried by mosquitoes.  Encouraging the stay of Purple Martins also helps support the conservation efforts of this largest of the North American Swallows.  The Purple Martin is a bird known for its agile hunting and for eating a variety of winged insects – even right out of the air!

Families dug out old plants, turned up the dirt and brought compost from the always-active compost pile, which is, in part, fueled by the compost materials from the cafeteria. The compost pile needs a proper ratio of carbon-rich materials, or “browns,” and nitrogen-rich materials, or “greens.” Among the brown materials are dried leaves, straw, and wood chips. Nitrogen materials are fresh or green, such as grass clippings and kitchen scraps. The compost materials were added to the beds and landscaping to further create the fertile ground for spring planting.

The Moss Haven Elementary Farm encourages environmental awareness, nutrition and an outdoor learning environment with math, science and reading.  Outdoor gardening provides a unique educational opportunity for students to experience the wonder of the entire food-growth process from seed and soil to our tables at home.

For more information about all of the happenings on and benefits of Moss Haven Elementary’s Farm, please visit www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Moss-Haven-Farm/236272306415557 as well as our blog mosshavenfarm.blogspot.com or contact Kim Aman, Kim.aman@risd.org.

Moss Haven Elementary is located at 9202 Moss Farm Ln. in the Lake Highlands area of Dallas.  Moss Haven is an elementary school in Richardson Independent School District.