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Eat your vegetables β€” after you grow them first!

Eat your vegetables β€” after you grow them first! Greenup County garden project promotes old skills to new audience

When Greenup County High School’s horticulture program planted a garden this spring, it was with hopes of harvesting more than just fresh vegetables.

“This is an old art,” said Food Services Director Diana McCabe. “We’re hoping to teach students how to provide nutritional food for themselves.”

Picture - A small head of cauliflower harvested from Greenup County High School’s garden.

The program started with Greenup matching an $800 grant the Rolling Hills Folk Center — a community organization that collaborates with nonprofits, businesses, community members and school districts — obtained through the Foundation for the Tri-State Community. In addition to the grant, Rolling Hills provided much of the labor over the summer, pulling weeds, making sure the plants were getting enough water and harvesting the vegetables. Those vegetables were used in the district’s summer feeding program and will be used in the high school salad bar as long as the plants continue to produce into the school year.

“Teachers and schools are interested in having gardens, but finding creative ways to add it into the curriculum is difficult,” said Bethany Deborde, Rolling Hills’ program director. “In the fall we will create a garden committee to oversee it and the plantings in the future. Our initial goal this spring was to plant a salad bar garden. In the future, I think we’ll expand.”

Cauliflower, peppers, cabbage, tomatoes, carrots and green peppers are the school’s first crops. The students in Sara Greene’s agriculture classes at the high school started the garden.

“My students had a hand in everything, from what we would plant in it, to the size, the spacing,” she said at the end of the school year. “Basically, every aspect of it. They planted it. The only thing they will not get to see is the harvest of it. We’re hoping next year to do a spring garden and that way they can reap the benefits before the end of school.”

A spring garden might include lettuces, radishes, onions and herbs. “That would be an early crop that doesn’t take long to mature,” Green said.

She said this project is an important tool in teaching students that food doesn’t come from the grocery store.

“It starts at home in the garden or the farm,” she said. “My students actually started the vegetables from seeds. We planted the seeds in the classroom in early February and we kept them alive under grow lights. We then took them to the greenhouse and let them mature even more and then we planted them.
“As a teacher, I wanted to make sure they could see the whole process from start to finish and then transplant them into the garden and grow those things themselves.”

Greene said Greenup County High School’s first garden also demonstrates that it doesn’t have to be a huge undertaking.

“Our gardens are 4-foot-by-4-foot raised beds. It’s not a big space and it’s something they could do in their yards,” she said. “It can be a few little pots here and there.”

Greene said students went with raised beds this year because it provided better water drainage, and they weren’t sure what the drainage would be like in the area next to greenhouse.

Picture - Rolling Hills Folk Center Program Director Bethany Deborde demonstrates how to remove suckers from tomato plants to promote better growth. Deborde’s organization helped Greenup County start its vegetable garden this spring by providing an $800 grant — and labor during the summer months.

“This time it was a very small amount,” Greene said. “Next year we plan to continue and not use the raised beds. We’ll probably just till up a large area beside our greenhouse where the beds are now.”

Horticulture student Garth Wireman, who graduated this year, grew up on a 400-acre farm. He said it was interesting to see this process on a small scale. He said his fellow students who had never done this before enjoyed the work.

“When we started the plants, you’d be amazed at the number of students who took an interest in them and watering them every day,” he said. “And when they started coming up, it just brightened their futures. They’re seeing the cycle of life.”
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