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Iron Range students getting hands dirty during Farm to School month

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AURORA, MN-- Eleventh-grade twins Hannah and Hailey Ronning are taking their first farm to school class this year in the Mesabi East School District.

"We've been doing it for about four weeks now," Hailey Ronning said.

The Farm to School initiative first came to Mesabi East Schools four years ago.

The program and plants have been growing rapidly according to Rachel Doherty, the district's Farm to School coordinator.

"It's about getting local farmers to be able to have their produce inside the school," said Doherty. "Last year we had three local farmers who were providing food for our students."

Collaborating and providing educational opportunities for students is the main goal of the Farm to School initiative.

Mesabi East's program first started in a classroom and has since expanded to five greenhouses the district owns.

"We have students in a horticulture class who are learning to grow microgreens hydroponically, including raised bed gardens as seasons change in Northern Minnesota," said Doherty.

The district has been able to continue the Farm to School program during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Students have been given supplies to grow micro-greens, like a radish mix, at home.

Students log their plants' growth every day. Once fully grown, the students bring them to class to taste.

Hannah Ronning adds, "You know exactly where it came from, how it's grown and then you get to give it to your other classmates."

Educators say the hands-on experiences students are getting help make better connections.

"They're able to make those connections from what they are learning in the textbook though and applying it to real life," Doherty said.

And students agree. "I know it'll be helpful in the future if anything if its just a little side hobby. But to learn it, everyone should know where foods come from," said Hannah Ronning.

The Mesabi East school district was given 44 raised garden beds from Minnesota-based business Eco Garden so students could grow vegetables year-round.

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Emma Quinn

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