Video+Gallery+Story: Fannin Sweet Potato Harvest Produces Fruits of Student Labor

Fannin Elementary students enjoyed the fruits of their labor Tuesday, burying their hands elbow deep in the soil to harvest the sweet potatoes they planted six months ago.

The school’s garden club planted sweet potato slips last May in preparation for the holiday months. Paraprofessional Robert Gable, who leads the club, talked to the students about the first Thanksgiving.

“The first Americans had to learn to grow and harvest their own food if they wanted to eat, Gable said. “We really want students to appreciate what they have and that the food they get at the supermarket comes from somewhere.”

Although sweet potatoes were not likely among the first vegetables the pilgrims ate, students were excited to dig up the ripe roots and weigh them on a scale borrowed from the science teacher.

Fifth-grader Allie Bazan smiled as she stacked a large sweet potato into an almost-full milk crate. Her favorite way to eat sweet potatoes is in fry form.

“I love sweet potatoes fries. It feels good to see the sweet potatoes we planted grow so big,” Allie said. “I like staying after school with the garden club and making the school a better place.”

Fifth-grader Jude Simmons helps at home with the herb garden, but has never grown anything bigger than mint.

“I enjoyed digging up the sweet potatoes and getting my hands messy,” Jude said. “I think it’s important to learn to grow food because if something goes wrong with the farms, you can grow your own food.”

By the end of the harvest, students had filled three milk crates with sweet potatoes, some weighing as much as six pounds.

Each student took one home in a plastic baggie to cook out at home. The rest will either be donated with the school’s canned food drive or used for the school’s Thanksgiving lunch.

“Once we have pulled up all sweet potatoes they have to be kept in the dark for about eight days,” Gable said. “That gives them time to get even sweeter.”

First-grader Joelle Muse likes his sweet potatoes boiled.

“This has been really fun to get my hands dirty,” he said. “My favorite part of Thanksgiving is eating turkey and spending time with my family. Now I get to eat my sweet potato, too.”

Story by Alicia Chumley / Photos by Leonel Monroy