14Erin Yoest South View FFA advisorThe Future Farmers of America arboretum at South View High School is about to get a major upgrade and offer a direct benefit to the community.

Erin Yoest, first-year agriculture teacher at South View, landed a $5,000 grant for the school’s arboretum from North Carolina State University.

The money will be used to expand South View’s arboretum and eventually grow vegetables that will be given to the needy in the community.

Yoest, 23, is a graduate of Pennsylvania State University who joined the faculty at South View eight months ago. She has a degree in agriculture and extension education and has been interested in agriculture since she was a youngster.

“We had a few show pigs and we got involved with 4-H as soon as we could,’’ she said. “When I went to high school, I knew I would be part of FFA. My interest in agriculture grew from there.’’

South View offers three courses in agriculture – agriscience applications and Horticulture I and II.

Yoest said the courses cover plant sciences, agricultural engineering and mechanics, and a little animal science and environmental science.

She learned about the grant opportunity from N.C. State last September and had to submit an application that included a project outline, timeline, goals and objectives, and a budget.

She has clear plans for how to spend the $5,000 the school was awarded.

“We’re going to be getting new tables for one of our greenhouses to make it a safer environment to work in,’’ she said. “Now they have wooden tables and they are starting to dry rot.’’

The rest of the money will go to purchase a drip irrigation system for the school’s edible arboretum.

Yoest said drip irrigation is a more efficient way to irrigate the arboretum than using traditional sprinklers. “You’re reaching the soil a lot better,’’ she said. “It’s educational as well as efficient.’’

She’s also hopeful that the school will be able to use the arboretum to raise money for the school’s FFA program. She said there are about 16 4-by-4- foot plots of soil in the arboretum that she would like to rent to the community.

“We’ll start with the staff and faculty at South View High School and Middle School,’’ she said. “We’ll eventually open it to the community to come and rent lots.’’

Yoest plans to start planting tomatoes, peppers, okra and corn, plus a variety of vegetables they already have seeds for.

How fast the various crops grow depends on normal growth rates for each and how cooperative the weather is during the spring and summer.

Some of the vegetables will get a jump-start by being planted in the school greenhouse in February.

“We could have some stuff ready by early summer,’’ Yoest said. “Other things like corn, watermelon and pumpkins will be more toward the end of the summer.’’

A final decision on exactly how the vegetables grown will be distributed to those in need hasn’t been made, Yoest said. One possible idea is to partner with Second Harvest Food Bank, she said. The issue will be settled once the arboretum is closer to producing actual food for distribution.

Photo: Erin Yoe

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