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Homeschool garden teaches life lessons and entrepreneurship

Texas Hill Country Homeschoolers garden

Young gardeners Dane Bowers (left), Jack Jones, Melanie Preece, and Max Jones tend the Texas Hill Country Homeschoolers’ garden on Pecan Valley Drive in Marble Falls. Staff photo by Jennifer Fierro

Four young gardeners are turning a plot of land on Pecan Valley Drive in Marble Falls into tasty, organic produce that’s good for grades. The group garden serves as an outdoor classroom for Texas Hill Country Homeschoolers as well as a source of good nutrition. This year, it will also serve as a fundraiser for a school trip.

Created in 2013, the garden helps teach biology, math, engineering, and design. Students study insects, calculate expenses, and learn how to grow their own food. The garden’s well provides water via a student-installed irrigation system. 

“We’re out here for four hours a week doing hard work,” said 12-year-old Jack Jones. “It teaches me how to be a hard worker, to be out here, and talk with my friends.”

This year, the garden produced an extra crop of curriculum: Entrepreneurship 101. The young gardeners are going to sell produce and use the proceeds to help pay for a school trip to the Mayan ruins in Mexico.

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, several students this year are growing gardens at their own homes. Jack and his brother, 14-year-old Max Jones, along with 13-year-olds Dane Bowers and Melanie Preece agreed to continue working together on the Pecan Valley Drive plot, which is next door to the Jones’ home. The four have been working the garden the longest — since 2013, when they were about 5 years old.

Dane created worksheets to keep track of everyone’s hours and how much money is spent on seeds and plants. 

“I’ll add into the spreadsheet all the costs, all the expenses,” he said. “Then, we can see if we make a profit.”

During the pre-planning stage, the quartet decided to plant high-demand items such as tomatoes, eggplants, banana peppers, bell peppers, jalapeños, squashes, cucumbers, zucchinis, carrots, green onions, long beans, lettuces, and herbs. They also have peach and nectarine trees in the mix.

Planting was at first set for mid-February — during the week of the snow and ice storms. The delay brought about a fortunate side benefit.

“The storm killed a lot of the weeds and grass,” Max said. “It makes it easier.”  

Working in the garden with a common goal has facilitated team bonding. 

“I get to know my friends better and learn to work hard for what I want and need,” Melanie said. 

She and her father recently built a wooden shed to house the tools. 

“All those tools were everywhere,” she said. “We made the roof from the float for the Christmas parade.”

Sounds like another important life lesson learned: recycling.