Opinion: Don’t cut funding for Cornucopia programs

  • The Cornucopia Project Courtesy Photo

Cornucopia Project
Published: 2/7/2019 4:18:39 PM

Voters in all nine towns of the ConVal School District will have a chance to decide the fate of outdoor education programs in the upcoming school budget vote on March 12.

Programs offered by the Cornucopia Project are among others on the list of “extras” to be cut by the ConVal District should the proposed school budget not pass. In that case, the default budget would require the district to find $1.29 million in cuts, meaning funding for Cornucopia’s elementary school garden program, though a relatively small number ($35,000) in the scheme of a $48 million budget, would be eliminated from funding next school year.

At a time when children spend more hours in front of screens than outdoors, eliminating opportunities for them to connect to the natural world seems ill-advised. The benefits to children working in the garden are well established: improved academics, better eating habits and physical health, improved social interactions and emotional health, to name a few. In addition, the garden provides myriad opportunities for children to wonder, observe, measure, solve problems, work as team, and make connections to the world around them.

The Cornucopia Project began gardening with children in Hancock more than ten years ago. Dublin Consolidated School was next. Five years ago, the district asked us to expand to include programming for all eight of the elementary schools and a contract for services was developed. This included building and maintaining raised garden beds on the grounds of all elementary schools and developing and delivering garden-based lessons for 14 weeks of the school year to all first and second grade students (plus additional grades at two elementary schools). To date over 1,500 students have received this curriculum-aligned teaching.

Three years ago, Cornucopia also developed the Farm to Fork high school agriculture program located directly across from ConVal High School. Because we value our partnership with the ConVal district, we have shared our farm site as a teaching space at no cost. What is the value of outdoor education, of learning where good food comes from, of developing a respect for the natural world, and feeling rooted to a sense of place?

We believe it’s worth finding a way to preserve the small amount of funding the district allocates to ensure that students have the Cornucopia Project garden experience, especially considering that this number is only a portion of what it actually costs to deliver this important learning. (Our nonprofit organization matches this amount with donations and grants to cover all costs.) We should not eliminate what is truly a great return on investment.

The ConVal voters have consistently supported providing quality educational experiences for its children. It’s one of the things that makes living and doing this work here really special. Since the beginning, the Cornucopia Project has felt much love and support from our community, and we are grateful.

Please help us save the funding for Cornucopia’s programs in the 2019-20 budget, pass or fail. We appreciate your support.


Karen Hatcher is executive director of the Cornucopia Project.


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