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Horse-Powered Plough Readies Urban Farm at Akron North High School

a photo of a horse drawn plough at Akron North High School
Akron teacher Dana Starvaggi uses a plough to prepare an urban farm for Akron students at North High School.

It's a sight you wouldn’t expect to see in Akron.

Students and teachers at North High School watched as two sturdy white horses pulled an old fashioned plough, preparing the ground for an urban farm that will enable students to learn about growing, preparing and marketing food.

Akron Public Schools will work with nonprofit Shanti Farms to teach students in all grades aspects of farming, from sampling soil to preparing food. 

About 22 languages are spoken in the schools in North Hill, Akron's international  neighborhood, said physical science teacher Dana Starvaggi.

Starvaggi was awarded a $15,000 grant from the GAR Foundation for the urban farm project. It enabled the school district to partner with Shanti Farms, a Bhutanese-run Akron nonprofit that helps immigrants and refugees preserve their agricultural heritage.

“They’ve done a really good job looking at the entrepreneur opportunities for urban agriculture and how our population is perfectly situated to kind of step into those roles,” Starvaggi said. “It’s getting our kids excited at North, and trying to get our community to come after school and help build that agency and community.”

Space will be reserved in the garden so community members also can grow food.

The horses, Pearl and Gem, are owned by Arnold Anstine of Triple A Horse Power in Louisville.

The plough team was brought in to prepare the garden because the method is familiar to many refugee students in  North Akron, whose families have agricultural backgrounds, according to Shanti Farms co-founder Tom Crain.

“They talk about the horses, the oxen, even the elephants that they used to set up the gardens,” Crain said. “That’s also why we’re using bamboo for fencing because that was the primary fencing material that they remember.”

The urban farm will include a large garden, while chickens and other livestock will be added later, Crain said.