Principal revives garden project at Weston High School

Garden benefits students, community

A new principal at Weston High School is helping turn around a failing school project to improve student learning and bring fresh produce to people in the community.

Weston High School made headlines six years ago when a student shot and killed its principal. But new Principal Ben Jones said he hopes the revitalized garden project will put the town back in the spotlight for positive reasons.

Jones had the idea of moving the classroom outside to the garden behind the school to help students learn, but he had no idea how much the town would be benefit, too.

Rows of radishes, peppers and lettuce line the hill behind the high school. Weston senior Mike Meyer oversees most of it.

“I get here early in the morning and we usually pick, weed and then turn on the water to water all the plants,” Meyer said.

His work equals credits that earned him an early graduation — and fresh produce for the townspeople. Twenty-two of them invest in the two-acre farm and, at week’s end, they get a variety of vegetables.

“You can’t buy it at the store this fresh, because who knows how long it’s been sitting on the shelves, you know, even if they spritz it down,” said shareholder Better Justman.

The program wasn’t so successful when the farm started five years ago. There were fewer funds and even fewer people committed to its cause.

But then Jones worked to turn it around.

“The idea was really born out of the community,” Jones said.

In his second year, the principal perked-up the program that has since won a “Standing Up for the Rural Schools” award.

“The garden provides great opportunities for kids to learn — to learn about nature, solving problems to working together as a team — and they get great rewards out of it,” Jones said. “All of the challenges in life that everybody goes through is an opportunity to sow, grow and learn together, and this is a living, breathing example of that.”

Extra vegetables, as well as fruit from the apple and plum trees planted near the garden, are served as part of a healthy lunch plan to the 310 students in the building.