US (NC): Tomato festival vital to expand school greenhouse projects

After having to cancel its Homegrown Tomato Festival last year, 100 Gardens returns with a virtual festival and watch parties across the greater-Charlotte area featuring tomato sandwiches and a video from nationally recognized experts.

The festival will be held Saturday, July 17, from 1-3:30 p.m. with a virtual event featuring nationally recognized speakers and guests from around the U.S. Viewers have the option to watch from home or attend a watch party — like one planned at Southern Strain Brewing Co. in Concord.

Founded in 2013, 100 Gardens is an organization that provides hands-on learning in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), with additional emphasis on nutrition and business for at-risk students, teaching about sustainable food sourcing through methods like aquaponics. The organization gets its name from its goal to have 100 farms in 100 local schools through aquaponics programs. 100 Gardens currently operates 15 programs in three states. Within each school’s greenhouse, students learn how to grow fresh fish and vegetables using aquaponics. Staffers from 100 Gardens install the system, develop lesson plans aligned with state requirements, train teachers, and organize workshops and internships for the students.

And this year, said 100 Gardens Executive Director Sam Fleming, Duke’s Mayonnaise is a first-time presenting sponsor for the festival.
“They are showing interest in this being one of the biggest events Duke’s does nationally,” Fleming said. And with Duke’s helping with the tomato sandwiches, Fleming said, he couldn’t think of a better match. Fleming said the mayonnaise corporation loved 100 Gardens’ message and mission and hoped to receive more local and even national attention, staring with the festival.

And after the pandemic, Fleming said, the programs are vital. During the pandemic, about half of 100 Gardens’ programs shut down temporarily and the other half kept running with minimal student involvement. Despite volunteer numbers being small and social distancing, keeping those other programs going allowed 100 Gardens to provide 15,000 servings of green vegetables to local food banks.

Read the complete article at www.independenttribune.coml

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