Carolyn Lewis Elementary was recently named Best Community Collaboration School Garden during the 2018 Arkansas Agriculture Department’s School Garden Contest by Farm Credit.

The elementary school, one of five honored in the state, was also awarded $500 for the garden program.

“We were very honored to be recognized,” principal Stacy DeFoor said.

He said they feel like Carolyn Lewis was chosen for the honor because of their core values as a program, which includes building relationships in the community.

“Our school garden program began with a grant from the Conway Public School Foundation and extended through partnerships with the Conway Regional Women’s Council and Lowe’s Heroes,” DeFoor said. “The school garden program continues to grow from the advice and involvement of community members who are on the School Garden Committee.”

The elementary principal said they plan on using the $500 to provide upkeep for their annual and perennial garden beds, which includes seeds, compost and mulch.

At the five schools, students had hands-on roles with planting, maintaining and harvesting the produce and classroom science curriculum was also integrated into the work.

“School gardens bring agriculture, our state’s largest industry, to life for Arkansas students,” Arkansas Agriculture Secretary Wes Ward, said. “Congratulations to the 2018 Arkansas Grown School Garden of the Year awardees. We are honored to continue this program another year and support school garden initiatives across Arkansas.”

The Farm Credit Associations of Arkansas partnered with the Arkansas Agriculture Department to provide $3,000 in funding for the contest.

“Farm Credit proudly supports agriculture education in the classroom and believes it’s important for young people to understand the food-growing process,” Farm Credit of Western Arkansas Faulkner County loan officer and vice president Josh Dunlap, said.

With more than $3 billion in assets, AgHeritage Farm Credit Services, Delta Agricultural Credit Association, Farm Credit Midsouth and Farm Credit of Western Arkansas support rural communities and agriculture across Arkansas with reliable, consistent credit and financial services, the release states.

“The Farm Credit [C]ooperatives of Arkansas are owned by the more than 11,000 customers [and] through the cooperative structure, customer-owners have a voice and vote in the associations’[s] governance and share in their cooperative’s financial success through cooperative returns, which total more than $187 million since 1997,” the release reads.