An elementary school in the Mount Vernon School District received a $25,000 grant to start a robotics gardening program with the help of WSU Extension.

The FarmBot growing system will be installed at Jefferson Elementary this fall to help grow, water and weed the school’s garden.

Talea Price, SNAP Ed coordinator at WSU’s Skagit County Extension program, said the biggest hurdle to school gardens is the growing season.

“When the gardening season starts, school is out,” she said. “Who is there to manage the garden?”

WSU Extension’s SNAP Ed program dedicates itself to increasing local communities’ consumption of fresh fruit and vegetables. Price’s department helped write the grant, which was awarded from the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) last November. The school used the grant money to purchase a green house and FarmBot equipment, as well as to support existing garden beds.

Before Extension’s help, Price said Jefferson had five 8’x4′ gardening boxes with no viable way to maintain the plants growing in them.

FarmBot uses a robotic gardening system and data to maintain and care for gardens. It takes factors such as age of a plant and the weather to determine what kind of care the garden needs. In addition, FarmBot serves as a great STEM-learning tool for the students at Jefferson.

Price said her department was more than happy to help when Jefferson principal, Tim Newall, approached them for assistance in starting a gardening program.

“Be prepared for the invasion of robotic farming systems,” said Superintendent for the Mount Vernon School District, Kenneth Hamilton. “This is an extremely exciting opportunity for our community. Thanks to WSU Extension for making this a success.”