Will Humber and his crew of students from Odom Academy are trying to make Beaumonters happier and healthier with organic fruits and vegetables grown in the school’s very own environmentally safe garden. The group celebrated the grand opening of the Odom’s Organics Produce Market on Thursday, June 6, at the store located on the Odom Middle School campus at 2550 West Virginia St. According to Humber, the store sells delicious and nutritious produce for reasonable prices.
Students under Humber’s supervision grow items like okra, squash, zucchini and a variety of peppers. Girls Scouts Troop 4670 donated 23 fruit trees now growing in the orchard section of the garden. Odom’s Organics sells tomatoes, apples, limes, corn, eggs from organically fed free-roaming hens, and more. Humber said anyone is welcome to purchase the organically grown vegetables, and during the summer, the store will be open on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 2-5 p.m.
“Everything within our garden is 100 percent all natural,” Humber said. “We don’t put anything in it. We don’t spray for bugs; we squish them. (This project) is just really cool, and it’s such a blessing for these kiddos to be able to get the recognition they deserve for all their hard work.”
Students have been involved in every step of the project, from completing the permitting requirements for the city to building the deck and rehabbing the building, from painting signs to pricing produce. Humber said the garden is tended by his horticulture class, consisting of 25 to 26 students who come out each day and maintain it.
“The students built the entire front porch of the store,” Humber said proudly in a May interview.
At the June 6 grand opening, Humber said his students enjoy the garden so much that he has had numerous volunteers to work in the garden and in the on-campus store over the summer. He said he is creating a schedule so interested students can participate.
The Odom Agricultural Farm is supported by Prairie View A&M University’s T.A.S.T.E. (Teaching Agricultural Sustainability Through Economics) program. The goal of the organization is to help students learn how to grow their own vegetables, as well as teach them business skills in starting a produce stand, skills students can use throughout their lives.
Humber has been busy since his May 5 interview with The Examiner. On that date, Humber received a Beaumont Pubic Schools Foundation grant to build a new goat pen.
“As soon as we got a plan formulated, we did not waste any time,” Humber said.
With help from his class, the pen is now up and ready for the new arrivals, and the shelter or barn to house the goats is to be built soon. The goats are being donated by Prairie View A&M University and are expected to be delivered when students return to school in the fall. Humber said they are starting with meat goats, and he hopes eventually to get both meat and milk goats to the school so students learn about both types.
Humber already had some new arrivals with the addition of 25 new chicks. “They are about to eat me out of house and home,” Humber laughed. “It’s been a hoot. We went ahead and got these guys so that by October, they will be laying.”
He said the chicks would be organically fed and the eggs produced would add to those being sold already at the student market next year. Humber and his son will be building a larger shelter for the poultry due to the new additions. According to Humber, some of the excess produce from the garden is fed to chickens and will be fed to the goats once they arrive.
“As you can see, everything is growing by leaps and bounds,” Humber said of his garden. “Everything has really filled out and looks amazing.”
Sharon Brooks can be reached at (409) 832-1400, ext. 241, or by e-mail at sharon [at] theexaminer [dot] com.