These kids aren’t just playing in the dirt.
Story by Eddy Hoyle + Photography by Arno Dimmling
The May River Montessori School has its own Jolly Green Giant. Brent Wearren, fondly known as Farmer B, is a pied piper of sorts who leads cheerful children in the afternoon garden club and the classroom. Farmer B wants to teach the next generation about gardening, and they are excited to learn.
Farmer B is a new specialty teacher at May River Montessori School, and the results are stellar. “We had pretty ambitious goals for the first year,” he said. First, the students learned how to germinate seeds, how to plan a garden, properly sow seeds, fertilize, and then plant. They also saved seeds from the harvest for next year.
All with the goal of selling their produce at the Bluffton Farmers Market and use the profits to pay for the gardening program.
That’s not all. To develop compassion and empathy, the students “pay it forward” by donating 25 percent of their weekly harvest to local food banks. And every student earns a bag of veggies to take home.
Developing entrepreneurial skills
Farmer B is teaching gardening, but more importantly, life skills and business and entrepreneurial skills. “Agriculture is a business,” he explained. “The kids make all the decisions. They named their business ‘Young Hope Production’ — ‘hope’ stands for Healthy Organic Plants Evolving. They are working on a mission statement, a logo, marketing strategies, a germination schedule, and managing cash flow to pay back investors.”
“They have to learn the plants,” Farmer B said. “They’ve got to know their products to sell them. Who’s our buyer? They learn target marketing at the farmers market. They have to be able to talk about their products because if you hesitate, you lose your buyer.”
Each student has certain responsibilities and the job title to go with it — for example, hydration specialists, inventory specialists and germination specialists.
Students were given a “recipe” for a custom blend of organic mix to amend their soil with the understanding that organic means “of the earth.” All classes are taught outside and involve some serious work. “You give a child responsibility and then you hold them accountable. They learn a real thought process when they have to measure space and decide on raw materials. They are learning to be resourceful. They have to pull weeds and break ground. It’s not always fun,” he said.
It’s not always fun
Nor is it always easy. To create space for small greenhouses, students had to dig a French drain, fill it with gravel and level the area. Then they learned to construct 3’ x 8’ PVC greenhouses with the plastic pipes, painters’ plastic mesh to use as a roll-up screen, and desk fans to keep the plants cool. Each greenhouse can accommodate 115 four-inch pots.
Each class has its own raised bed to grow herbs, lettuce, kale and heirloom plants. “They learn to water the toes, not the nose, and they love gardening,” Farmer B said. “The first grade class laid stone pavers in their bed in a heart shape. I asked them what the heart meant and they said it’s because they love gardening.”
“I had one mother call me,” he continued. “She said, ‘My kid has never eaten a radish. What did you do?’ I simply said, ‘He grew it.’ That makes all the difference.”
The gardening program has lofty goals, but deep down inside Farmer B has his own goal: to find that one special student who shares his own deep passion and decides to be a grower.
Five Things You Don’t Know About Farmer B
1. As a kid growing up on a farm, he asked his dad for a small plot of ground to grow vegetables to sell on his paper route. His mom knew when he was a toddler that he would be a grower. He studied horticulture at Michigan State University.
2. Farmer B didn’t know his grandfather was an organic gardener. “I thought he was just cheap because he’d use chicken droppings and manure as fertilizer. He used his car like a truck and it really smelled. Grandma wouldn’t even ride in it.”
3. Canning and “putting up” fruit and vegetables like spaghetti sauce, green beans and peaches has always been a way of life. Even today he and his wife grow their own edible garden and carry on this family tradition.
4. His tips for success in gardening: Perseverance, Patience, Persistence.
5. He was a grower for 34 years in Kentucky, retired to the Lowcountry in 2014, and is a consultant and personal grower to help homeowners create edible landscapes. He’ll come to your home to educate you, but he warns that you must be committed on this journey from seed to harvest.