School Gardens in Full Bloom with Help from FoodCorps

This spring Washington County: One Community FoodCorps service member Emily Seymour and students from Rose M. Gaffney Elementary jun15 foodcorps rmg(RMG) and Machias Memorial High School in Machias, Ella Lewis Elementary in Steuben, and Cherryfield Elementary were busy planting their campus gardens with vegetable and flower seeds and seedlings. Their hard work was rewarded with plentiful fresh produce to complement school lunches.

In May and June, students at RMG harvested over 16 pounds of spinach, kale, hon tsai tai, and pea shoots. Most of the produce was delivered directly to the kitchen staff and served in the elementary school cafeteria or on the high school salad bar. One high school teacher reported her amazement at seeing her students encourage others to try the hon tsai tai (an Asian salad green) that they had planted and harvested.

jun15 foodcorps elsA tragic greenhouse collapse at Ella Lewis (due to heavy winter snow load) became an opportunity to bring the community together to build a larger, much sturdier model. Genio Bertin of Mandala Farm in Gouldsboro led Sumner High School “Pathways” students, and Maine Sea Coast Missions’ EdGE (Ed Greaves Education Center) after-school program participants in framing and covering the new greenhouse. Emily and Food Corps member Isabel Neal, who serves Hancock County through Healthy Acadia, helped science teacher Danielle Wells and her 4th-8th grade classes fill the garden beds with soil, install cardboard pathways, run irrigation tape throughout the beds, and fill them with everything from beets to edible flowers.

Emily and Isabel’s collaborative work with the Ella Lewis School has strengthened an already existing support system between Washington County: One Community and Healthy Acadia, the Healthy Maine Partnerships serving Washington and Hancock Counties. The result is better wrap around support for Ella Lewis and an excellent foundation of support for each FoodCorps member to perform better in other school environments in the future.

With help from the Flannel Shirt Fund and the Whole Kids Foundation, Cherryfield Elementary expanded their school garden threefold – from CES garden watering14three raised beds to nine. Over the winter, Emily worked with grades K-8 and their teachers to pick garden themes for each class. Students have since planted their gardens, including “pizza” (think tomatoes, basil, oregano), “green salad,” and “rainbow.” Students recently enjoyed baby salad greens from their garden – the 4-foot row planted by the second grade produced enough bounty for each child in that class to bring home a salad for their families. Several of the beds, including strawberries, kitchen herbs, and a pumpkin patch planted by the kindergarten class, will be maintained by a volunteer network of parents and teachers over the summer so they can be harvested by the students when they return in the fall.

Emily is finishing out her service year Downeast with a summer garden camp in Machias and Cherryfield in collaboration with the EdGE program. Her program includes cooking and gardening activities, tie-dyeing with plants, and field trips to local farms.

[ published on June 25, 2015 under WC:OC's Blog ]

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