Chamber’s leadership class’s garden projects benefit children through hands-on learning

Published 2:42 pm Friday, August 25, 2023

A Chamber of Commerce’s Leadership Lafayette class promotes healthy, educational and hands-on learning through garden projects that beautify the Oxford community – with the help of The Boys and Girls Club and Lafayette Upper Elementary School

Members of the Chamber of Commerce’s 2023 Leadership Lafayette class took part in organizing educational pollinator and vegetable gardens in partnership with local schools, student clubs and community businesses to encourage beautification and well-being for both the environment and in their daily lives.

“Our mission was to create a cosmetic, functional space and natural habitat to unify the community and better the local environment,” said the project’s manager, Briana Murphree. “Creating an educational impact was a high priority for our group which is why we wanted to partner with schools and student groups.”

Members of this particular class group were Zach Booner, Tannehill & Carmean; Courtney Carlton, The Algernon Sydney Sullivan Foundation; Ambry Coleman, Trustmark Bank; Avery Davis, Daisy Gift Company; Don Jones, Northwest Community College; Jason List, The Firm; and Murphree, University of Mississippi.

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After doing research with group member Don Jones at Northwest Community College and their pollinator gardens, the class realized the need for building natural pollinator habitats in their community. Based on findings from Len Lawhorn, the NWCC campus horticulturalist, the group learned that insects, including honeybees, butterflies and moths, are responsible for at least one out of every three bites of food we eat, which is more the 35 percent. More than 90 different varieties of fruits, vegetables and essential crops like alfalfa and hay for our meat and dairy industries depend on pollinating insects for survival.

The group partnered with Lafayette Upper Elementary School’s Quest Program to implement their first pollinator garden. The group had a planting day with LUES students in the spring and were able to create a more tranquil outdoor space for the students to begin a curriculum around.

“This pollinator garden will allow the students to really understand the life cycle of bees, butterflies, and plants and how they all work together,” said Principal Janine Lee. “It also allowed beautification to our common space and now students have something pretty to look at as they walk by.”

LUES has kicked off the new school year with a curriculum built around their garden within their science department, as well as their QUEST program for 3-6th graders. The group dedicated the garden Aug. 22 with members of the Lafayette Leadership group, the Chamber of Commerce and the Lafayette Elementary Upper School – as well as community sponsors from Barnes Trading Company, The Original Grit Girl, Daisy Gift Company/Lulus of Oxford, Tannehill and Carmean, and Trustmark Bank.

Members of the group also partnered with The Boys and Girls Club in hopes of providing some educational elements to the students there. They were able to acquire resources and materials through community partners such as Lilly Farm and Supply, Olin Winchester and Matthews Real Estate, and held a planting day with a group of students on June 16.

The Boys and Girls Club requested a mixture of vegetable and pollinator plants, so the group worked with Harris Family Farms in Water Valley to provide the club with organic plants that have shown fruitful harvest over the summer.

The Community Garden of Oxford Association will assist in the maintenance of the garden moving forward. The group is working with the Boys & Girls Club Board of Trustees and are still looking for community partners to provide educational resources around the garden to the club after school.

If you have any suggestions or recommendations, please contact Courtney Carlton or Frank Dyer of the Boys and Girls Club Board of Trustees.

Leadership Lafayette is presented through the Oxford-Lafayette County Chamber of Commerce and welcomes applicants from all levels of community involvement, from established corporate level leaders, executives, emerging leaders, community leaders and those new to Oxford and Lafayette County interested in learning more about Oxford and Lafayette County and the issues that impact our community.

Applications are available in early fall and the program runs from January-August. Contact the Chamber of Commerce at 662-234-4651 for more information.