The new garden has been designed for use by all Louisiana students, as well as for children and families to enjoy, according to LSU AgCenter vegetable specialist Kiki Fontenot.
Fontenot said she welcomes the public, whether individuals or groups, to come and take a look at the garden and get ideas to take away with them.
“But don’t just come once, because the garden will look different with every season,” she said. “The crops will continuously change, so it could be a new garden every time you visit.”
The garden really has two purposes — first, to show teachers how to raise plants and how to build raised beds, and second to show teachers how to incorporate a garden into their curriculum so the children not only learn gardening, but also math, science, social studies and other topics.
LSU AgCenter vice chancellor and director of the Louisiana Cooperative Extension Service Paul Coreil thanked the Pennington Foundation and others for the support they are giving to make the garden a success.
“This garden is just one part of the master plan for Burden,” Coreil said. “Without partners like Pennington, we would not be able to complete projects like this because of the constraints we have with public funding.”
Coreil told the audience that one of the biggest issues in agriculture is “we have been too successful.”
“We have about one percent of the population out there growing most of the food we eat,” he said. “That’s a good thing, but it is also a bad thing because it has caused many, especially children to lose contact with what it takes to grow our food.”
LSU AgCenter vice chancellor and director of the Louisiana Experiment Station John Russin asked the crowd what would a person like him, who deals with science, research and Ph.D.s, have to do with a children’s garden.
“Well, some youngster who walks into this garden is going to be a future researcher who is going to help feed the world,” Russin said. “So this is absolutely, foundationally critical for the research mission in this state.”
Laura Becnel, a Baton Rouge mom who homeschools her children, said the garden will be a great place to bring her children for the learning experience.
“I didn’t plant a garden this year,” Becnel said. “So to see all of the winter vegetables will be neat.”
After the ribbon was cut, attendees roamed the garden looking at the different fall crops, and children were given ladybugs to release into the garden.
Fontenot said schools don’t have to be in Baton Rouge to enjoy the garden because the activities can be incorporated into any school’s curriculum.
“This garden offers a two-part learning process for the students,” she said. “The teachers can start the garden part of their lesson out here by measuring the plants or looking for butterflies, then go back to the classroom to finish the lesson.”
The garden is free and open to the public as well as to any groups with children. Fontenot asks that groups with children or schools call her in advance, unless they just want to take a walk-through tour.
“We do have a set of 20 backpacks, so if groups have 20 or 40 students, each child or each pair of children will have all the materials to do the core lessons that we’ve created ourselves right here in the garden,” Fontenot said.
The Burden Center is located at 4560 Essen Lane just off Interstate 10 in Baton Rouge. For further information about the children’s garden, contact Kiki Fontenot at 225-578-2222.