Lori Garrett teaches pre-kindergarten through fourth grade at Cactus Elementary School and has won multiple awards for her dedication to agricultural literacy and education. She was recently presented with a White-Reinhardt Mini-Grant from the American Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture. This is the second time Mrs. Garrett was has been awarded the White-Reinhardt Mini-Grant.

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Lori Garrett (center) receives White-Reinhardt Mini-Grant from representatives with the American Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture. Photo Credit: R. Brady @McJoNews

The White-Reinhardt Mini-Grant is a national grant program which was established to fund projects that help students and adults cultivate a better understanding of agriculture. Cactus Elementary has made use of grant funds like these to educate students and expand the school garden program which Mrs. Garrett has supervised for the past five years.

Mrs. Garrett has been an active participant in many of Texas Farm Bureau’s (TFB’s) educator opportunities, including TFB’s Ag in the Classroom, Summer Ag Institute and Learning from the Ground Up garden grant programs. Her dedication and hard work in these areas can be seen when visiting the Cactus Elementary School Garden.

Cactus Elementary students in the schools garden. Photo Credit: Lori Garrett

The schools garden consists of a greenhouse, raised planting beds, and a composting bin all of which students help maintain while learning about agriculture. Mrs. Garrett and her students have incorporated produce grown in the schools garden into food packages which have been delivered through a community outreach program.

In addition to the grant funds, a partnership between the school and a Nazarene based volunteer organization will provide additional resources to help maintain the garden through the summer months.

“We’re going to install mini aquaponics systems in our lab to grow herbs,” she said. “We plan to buy some automatic watering systems for our outdoor raised beds because, being in the Texas Panhandle, one of the biggest things that we deal with is lack of moisture. So, the kids are helping me measure and calculate what we need to put those systems in, and they’ll be helping to install those and also utilizing our greenhouse more.”

A pair of frogs in the Cactus Elementary zoo. Photo Credit: R. Brady @McJoNews

Cactus Elementary even has a small zoo where students learn to care for animals and learn about various species and their habitats. The small indoor zoo features a classroom area and houses several animals including; spiders, snakes, lizards, frogs, and more.

Grant programs, like the White-Reinhardt Mini-Grant, are giving schools access to needed resources and helping them develop specialized programs like the Cactus Elementary School Garden. Through early education, and a hands-on approach to learning, educators and organizations like Texas Farm Bureau see a path where local high school students could find internship opportunities with local businesses. It’s these early internships that can give students a substantial head start in the job market and even lead to higher paying starting wages in some industries.