How Does the Florida Prep Garden Grow? Culinary Director Eric Schappert Discusses the School’s New Garden

By  //  August 18, 2019

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Garden is labor of love for Florida Prep’s culinary director Chef Eric Schappert

SPACE COAST DAILY TV: Florida Prep culinary director Eric Schappert discusses the school’s new garden. The farm-to-table philosophy, which promotes community-supported local agriculture, is a sizzling trend among restaurants. CLICK HERE to learn more about Florida Preparatory Academy

BREVARD COUNTY • MELBOURNE, FLORIDA – The farm-to-table philosophy, which promotes community-supported local agriculture, is a sizzling trend among restaurants.

Among prep schools, however, it is not yet a trend, but Florida Preparatory Academy in Melbourne is leading the way with a garden that is educational, nutritious, and even inspirational.

The school garden, although still in the developmental stage, is already a source of interest for both the students and the community.

A labor of love for Florida Prep’s culinary director, Chef Eric Schappert, the garden is part of Schappert’s culinary class, available as an elective for the students. Schappert was responsible for the installation of the garden and supervises its daily care with the help of his students.

He based his selection of plants with his students in mind, choosing specimens with visual impact, outstanding taste and ability to thrive during particular growing seasons.

For good measure, he also added some specimens that might be unfamiliar to the academy’s diverse student body.

Thanks to Brevard’s abundance of sunshine, the students didn’t have to wait long to witness the fruits of their labor.

In six weeks, a profusion of eggplants and tomatoes are already plentiful, as are watermelons, several varieties of squash, corn and numerous herbs encircled by butterflies to attract pollinators.

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A labor of love for Florida Prep’s culinary director, Chef Eric Schappert, the garden is part of Schappert’s culinary class, available as an elective for the students. Schappert was responsible for the installation of the garden and supervises its daily care with the help of his students.

CLICK HERE to learn more about Florida Preparatory Academy

The garden currently encompasses half an acre on campus, but there are plans to double its size.

“We own the land behind the garden and it is our intent to expand into that area later in the year,” said Jeannette Middleton, the school’s director of communications and marketing.

Schappert, who plans to add a greenhouse, walkways and awnings to the garden, anticipates that crops from the garden will end up on the plates of Florida Prep students.

“It is my goal to eventually have the majority of the produce served in the dining hall come from the garden,” he said.

“Given the limited real estate we have for growing, I also want students the experience of growing new and interesting produce that not only tastes good but also introduces a new dimension to their meals.

That concept is made easier when students buy into the process. Through my class, I’m taking them from the planting to preparation for consumption.”

The school garden, although still in the developmental stage, is already a source of interest for both the students and the community.

The Florida Prep garden is raising more than just produce. It is helping to nurture a new generation of gardeners, for parents report that some of their students have started gardens at home.

The community is also embracing the concept.

“It’s common to see members of the local gardening community drop by to deliver plant cuttings, equipment and compost. They are captivated by the work they see going on in here,” said Schappert.

“I cannot tell you how many people have stopped by, asked what we are doing and then come back with a gift for us. ‘Kids just don’t do this nowadays’ is a constant refrain.”

The Florida Prep gardeners also hope to join forces with local corporations to help feed the hungry in the community.

The Florida Prep gardeners also hope to join forces with local corporations to help feed the hungry in the community.

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“We are working with Collins Aerospace on their Corporate Charity Garden initiative,” explained Middleton.

The initiative will unite companies and organizations in the Melbourne area in growing produce that will be donated to the Daily Bread and other local food pantries.

Anyone who has tried growing green things during a Florida summer knows it takes perseverance and hard work to succeed, but Chef Schappert and his student gardeners have dug in for the long run with their Florida Prep garden, driven by the chef’s enthusiasm for the farm-to-table concept.

“Gardening is my passion, and to have the opportunity to share the garden’s development with my students and to see their enthusiasm for the project grow each day has been one of the most satisfying parts of my career,” he said.

CLICK HERE to learn more about Florida Preparatory Academy

Florida Preparatory Academy in Melbourne is leading the way with a garden that is educational, nutritious, and even inspirational.

Florida Preparatory Academy in Melbourne is leading the way with a garden that is educational, nutritious, and even inspirational.

CLICK HERE to learn more about Florida Preparatory Academy


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