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Grant Money Produces Farmer's Market
Armed with a grant and hoping to help students learn more about the 'farm to table' process, Van Allen Elementary School hosted a Farmer's Market on Sept. 28. The evening featured the sale of seedlings that students had started in their classrooms, along with music, food, fresh flowers, school merchandise and more.

Proceeds of the event will be put back into the school's vegetable garden, to keep the process going.

"All the kids started the seedlings," explained Justina Percey, a parent volunteer involved in putting the market together. "The kids recycled their lunch milk cartons and planted the seedlings in them. That helps them see it all the way through."

Organizers were thrilled with the turnout, which saw the parking lot at Van Allen jammed with cars and people enjoying the early fall evening.

Second grade teacher Gloria Erickson had some of her own freshly grown flowers available for sale and said she was pleased that the project came together.

She said the grant, from the Heinz Corporation, was for $2,500.

"One of the criteria is to have a Farmer's Market," Erickson explained. "All the parents just stepped up to it."

The school worked with Nancy Jean Smith out of Stanislaus State to get the grant, and was one of two schools in the area to receive the money. The other, a charter K-8 school in Stockton, also hosted a Farmer's Market.

Van Allen Principal Scott Ferreira said plans are to try and do two events a year, one in the fall and another in the spring, when the time will be better for planting the seedlings. Any of those not sold at the Wednesday night event were going to be put into the Van Allen garden.

"It's bringing the community together," Erickson added of the Farmer's Market.

Youngsters were helping sell tickets for a drawing for four Hopper tickets to Disneyland, with proceeds from the sales going to help pay for Science Camp. The winner will be drawn at the Van Allen Harvest Festival on Friday, Oct. 28.

Elsewhere, Renee Snow from Taqueria El Pastor in Escalon was manning the grill serving up some hot, spicy food to the hungry crowd and Mark Macsenti, lead man for the Taillights band, joked that he and fellow musician Mark Greer were "the left blinker and the right blinker" for the band, providing the musical entertainment.

Ferreira said he was thrilled with the way the market went.

"I'm blown away, the parking lot is full," he said of the turnout.

It also provides a very 'teachable' moment, with students leaning about the planting and growing process, seeing how much work it takes to keep the garden free of weeds and producing high quality foods.

"A lot of the seedlings aren't selling and we anticipated that," he said, "so we look to do this two times a year and we'll do one in the spring."

As far as having an ample supply of product, Ferreira said that isn't even a question.

"Our garden is bursting at the seams," he said.