Girls tending a garden.

A garden grows at Vernfield

In the photo above, students plant a vegetable garden at Vernfield Elementary School. At center, first grader Peyton Krebs watches as her fifth grade “buddy” Arielle Lear plants swiss chard. Photo by:  Geoff Patton, The Reporter.

By Linda Stein

TELFORD — This is the second year that students at Vernfield Elementary have planted a garden. The garden is part of Cultivating Communities Campaign to grow fresh food for people in need.

Fifth-grade teacher Naomi Donovan, Vernfield’s garden coordinator, said last year the school “had a wonderful beet crop.”

This year “we’re enlarging it and making it better.”

Last summer, 10 families volunteered to water and weed the garden. Donovan hopes to have soaker hoses in place this year.

Food from the garden will be donated to the Keystone Opportunity Center and Table of Plenty food pantries.

Donovan said the crops that the students planted, beets and potatoes, were chosen to avoid zucchini and tomatoes, which typically are abundant.

“The whole idea was to expand the walls of Vernfield so students begin to appreciate their produce comes from a seed in the ground,” said Donovan. “Students are so engaged when they do these hands-on opportunities. The garden helps them “understand their civic responsibility as they can impact the world. They become cognizant that there are needy people.”

Growing food to donate to hungry people “expands their sense of what a citizen does. It’s really exciting that they can be citizens.”

The garden has five four-by-eight raised beds,” she said. They imported the dirt for the raised beds.

“We’re trying to educate ourselves as well as the students how you can grow up instead of out,” she said. The garden will provide local produce for people in the community.”

The Cultivating Communities Campaign is through the Health Promotion Council, part of the Public Health Management Corp. Other partners are Penn State University Extension, the Montgomery County Health Department and the Food Trust. Funding for CCC is through the North Penn Community Health Foundation.

Donovan, whose hobby is gardening, said that she can call a master gardener from Penn State with questions.

“All grades will have some investment and a schedule for volunteers will be set up,” she said. “Families will help maintain the garden and be the energy behind maintaining the garden in the summer time.”

Meanwhile, “This whole idea of planting locally trickles down,” Donovan said. “Students ask their parents to have their own gardens. That’s a hoped for outcome.”

Last year the school’s efforts at composting “didn’t go that well but we’re hoping that composting will become part of this school culture. That is powerful education to see scraps converted into workable soil.”

From Stein, Linda. (2012, May 12). A garden grows at Vernfield. The Reporter. Retrieved from: