Team effort: Local garden project gets growing

Jan Loveland, Contributing Writer

Photo by Jan Loveland

Mentor Peg Gielda worked with Milan Astle and Freddie Shannon on Monday to set tomato seedlings into a new raised bed.


REGION – Once again, the Bellaire Youth Initiative has teamed up with Bellaire Rotary and the Juniper Garden Club to create opportunities for local kids to learn about growing plants and gardening.

The joint effort is the brainchild of Dee Lynch, who has planned the project for a year and brought the groups together to launch it this summer. Located at the John R. Rodger Elementary School in Bellaire, the newly created plot will be planted with flowers and vegetables in the next few weeks and tended by six students who have been chosen as apprentices for the summer.

According to organizers, the program has created a terrific opportunity for learning garden skills because each of the students will be paired with a mentor, a seasoned gardener from the area. Even better, the garden has a bigger purpose: to share the flowers grown with Meadow Brook and homebound elders in the community.  The veggies will be used with a cooking class sponsored by BYI that will take place in August.

A solid amount of additional community effort has gone into the project, but the Youth Initiative has been responsible for funding, doing administrative work and teaming up with Rotary and Juniper, both of which have members who have volunteered. No school funds have been used at all for the project.

“When we were in BYI cooking classes, I was asking kids how the plants were grown and harvested,” said Lynch, “They had no idea and that’s why we started.”

She believes that most kids are hungry for the knowledge that may not be covered as part of the regular curriculum. In the cooking classes last year, a number of students took the recipes and cooked for their families.

“At least when they’re talking about a garden, they will know what that entails,” she said. That means that results will likely spread throughout the community.

Participants have been chosen from Bellaire students in sixth to 10th grades. They include: Grace Landis, Grace Robinson, Freddie Shannon, Spencer Balko, Alayna Elandt, Emily Christie, Alexa Strand and Milan Astle. They will be mentored by local gardeners Peggy Gileda, Marg With, Mary Barton, Jenny Stone, Judy Howser, Elaine Labuz, Anne Bodner – and, not surprisingly, Lynch.

Landis was last year’s Juniper Garden Club summer intern, whose summer of experience will allow her to help the younger gardeners acquire new skills.

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