Children are getting their hands dirty for a good cause this spring, as they plant educational and community gardens throughout the Ohio Valley.
Students at Bellaire Elementary School planted a "salad" garden this spring in the hope of harvesting and enjoying the greens before the end of the school year. Susan West, manager of the Ohio Valley Farmers' Markets in Belmont County and an Ohio State University Extension worker, assisted the children, teaching them good planting techniques and how to grow nutrient-rich food.
"I'd really like to expand the program but since most gardening is done in the summer in Ohio, it would take some volunteers," West said.
Photos by Betsy Bethel
Lily Doud, 4, who attends Covenant Community Church in Wheeling, places a plant in the ground during planting day for the C3 Community Garden, which volunteers plant, maintain and harvest for the Soup Kitchen of Greater Wheeling.
Across the river at Wheeling Country Day School in the Woodsdale neighborhood, students prepared raised beds for a variety of vegetables they planted two weeks ago. The garden project teaches good stewardship of the land and gives students a hands-on learning experience they can, literally, take home with them.
At the 18th Street Youth Community Garden, children served by the Laughlin Memorial Chapel, under the leadership of Danny Swan, have been busy for several weeks weeding plots, spreading compost and planting seeds at the large garden located on a swath of sun-drenched hillside underneath the W.Va. 2 overpass. The bounty will be shared by the volunteers and their families, will be served at the 18th Street Catholic Neighborhood Center and to the children at the chapel's summer programs. In addition, the kids will sell what they harvested at the East Wheeling farmers' markets.
In an effort to teach the children more about organic fertilization, Swan launched a chicken project last week. More than 20 chickens roam in a large pen and also take turns tooling around underneath a "chicken tractor," a coop on wheels that allows the chickens to eat fresh plants and bugs and at the same time till the soil with their claws and fertilize it with their manure. They also produce nutrient-rich eggs.
Covenant Community Garden in rural Ohio County also is under way. The second annual planting on 1 acre of church-owned property took place Tuesday with about 70 volunteers from Covenant Community Church in Wheeling, Young Life and other community members, including Swan. Deb Frazier, a church member who founded the garden project, said the church again hopes to grow and harvest 2,000 pounds of fresh produce to donate to the Soup Kitchen of Greater Wheeling and local families in need.
Community gardens also are starting to grow in East Wheeling, Morristown and St. Clairsville.