Green thumbs in the garden: Marathon Petroleum Logistics awards grant to Dickinson Middle School

Dickinson Middle School was awarded a $2,000 grant by Marathon Petroleum Logistics which will go towards building a garden that provides students with a well-rounded understanding of food systems.

Students from Kathy Mavity and Ashlee Eastham's sixth-grade class show off a bean given to them by Superintendent Marcus Lewton before he tills the land breaking ground on the new sustainable garden at Dickinson Middle School on Wednesday, May 3.
Allison Engstrom / The Dickinson Press

DICKINSON -Some kids turn their noses up in disgust at the sight of anything green, but this upcoming harvest season students at Dickinson middle school will have green thumbs and colorful veggies as they break ground on their latest agricultural addition to campus, a sustainable garden, made possible by a student and her dad through a grant provided by Marathon Petroleum Logistics on Wednesday, May 3.

Kayleigh Orluck, left, and Mike Orluck help DMS secure a grant through Marathon Petroleum Logistics to help fund a new sustainable garden for the middle school. <br/>
Allison Engstrom / The Dickinson Press

Superintendent Marcus Lewton, a former agricultural teacher himself, met Kathy Mavity and Ashlee Eastham's sixth-grade class for a quick lesson on gardening and tractor safety before Lewton fired up a John Deere tractor and tilled the land in preparation for the garden.

Designed to be built and cared for by the incoming sixth graders and follow them throughout their middle school years, the garden is expected to be incorporated into a variety of subjects including math, science and literacy.

The garden will give students the ability to apply their learning in a real-world setting as they have the opportunity to grow the beds, tend to the plants, harvest, and understand weather conditions and plant cycles giving them a well-rounded understanding of sustaining a food system Mavity said.

It was a student of Mavity’s, Kayleigh Orluck and her father Mike Orluck who planted the seeds of the grant.


Superintendent Lewton gives each middle school student a bean and gives them a lesson on the importance of agriculture at Dickinson Middle School on Wednesday, May 3.
Allison Engstrom / The Dickinson Press

Mike works for Marathon and heard about the grant while on a conference call, the message like a game of Telephone was passed to Kayleigh and then to Mavity before eventually coming to fruition.

“Our area director said, ‘Hey, we have funds available to give to the community, but it's up to you guys to get out and find [who to give it to].’ And then they have a committee and they take it and they vote on it and it was approved and they got the money and everything came together,” said Mike.

After a week or two of anxiously waiting, a grant of $2,000 to go toward their sustainable garden was approved and the two were eager to share the news.

“We were so excited and I couldn’t wait to share the news with Mrs. Mavity and my class,” said Kayleigh.

Both Mike and Lewton brought up the importance of teaching kids where exactly their food comes from and hope the garden provides that opportunity to students for many years to come.

School gardens with their variety of benefits are growing throughout the country and in North Dakota.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Farm to School Census report, 34.3% of responding schools have edible gardens, although North Dakota is low on the map, the DMS garden proves that the state is on a path to growth.

“We all saw it growing up. We all understand how much work it is in the garden. The kids can come and volunteer their time in the summer to weed and things like that, you know, a lot of manual labor, a lot of work and they’ll hopefully get that appreciation for where that food comes from,” said Mike.


As the students learn to plant and tend to their garden throughout the year, Mavity has plans to put together a meal with students using their garden harvest to show the students the fruits of their labor.

From left: Kathy Mavity, Mike Orluck, Kayleigh Orluck and Ashlee Eastham watch as their grant money is put to use setting the foundation for a new sustainable garden at Dickinson Middle School on Wednesday, May 3.
Allison Engstrom / The Dickinson Press

Allison is a news reporter from Phoenix, Arizona where she earned a degree in journalism from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University. After college, she worked as a middle school writing teacher in the valley. She has made her way around the U.S. driving from Arizona to Minnesota and eventually finding herself here in Dickinson. She has a passion for storytelling and enjoys covering community news.
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