When you think about what sits behind a middle school, you probably think about soccer fields, running tracks, or basketball courts. But behind Enfield Middle School in Halifax County, next to the athletic fields sits a nine acre farm that grows a variety of vegetables for the community.
Green Leaf Farm, owned by Halifax County Schools, is operated by students at Enfield Middle School and Southeast Collegiate Preparatory High School, under the instruction of farm manager and teacher, Reginald Cotten.
“The farm here started about 5 years ago,” says Cotten. “We started out donating the produce to the community and local families, but we’ve been able to expand through this partnership.”
Green Leaf Farm and Halifax County Schools partnered with Working Landscapes, a nonprofit organization in Warren County that is focused on cultivating sustainable livelihoods in the region through stewardship of natural assets.
“Our staff has been working at the district since 2016 and working at the farm, in the cafeterias, and in the classrooms to help make this farm-to-school partnership happen,” says Working Landscapes Associate Director Gabe Cummings. “We helped them achieve Good Agricultural Practice (GAP) certification and we’ve collaborated on agricultural education programs and initiatives inside the classroom.”
Student involvement on Green Leaf Farm operates much like a work-study program, says Halifax County Schools Superintendent Dr. Eric Cunningham. The revenue generated from the produce goes towards compensating the students who work on the farm.
“A lot of kids don’t understand where their food comes from,” says Tyree Silver, a former Green Leaf Farm student participant. “On this farm, they get to see what happens to the seed they plant and what it looks like as an end result.”
The produce grown on Green Leaf Farm goes into the Enfield Middle School cafeteria and also becomes a part of their mobile farmer’s market.
“It’s exciting to see the students work hard and cultivate the land, as well as handle the marketing and selling of the produce has been really great,” says Cotten. “Their willingness to make this a success and give back to the community drives this partnership.”
Reginald Cotten and Green Leaf Farm was a part of the NC Rural Center’s Rural Food Business Assistance Project in partnership with USDA Rural Business Development. The Rural Food Business Assistance Project provided direct technical training to agribusinesses and built regional networks to support local farmers, valued-added processors, and food service businesses.