You can’t stop good things from growing. The idea for a B-P Community Garden took root last November when a large group of staff convened with a local pastor during professional development day. They brainstormed the garden’s layout, crops and how to involve students, and then proceeded to build large, raised garden beds in the back of the Perth campus.
“We worked with Reverend Linda Martin of the First Presbyterian Church, and she and her husband were very helpful with beginning the garden,” said B-P Director of Special Programs Christine Foglia. “They have a beautiful community garden behind the church, which is right down the road from the high school, in town.”
After considering the large size of their initial community garden group, a smaller team with one staff member from each school formed to facilitate decision making, communication and planning for the project for the 2019-20 school year and beyond. Members include Wendy Carroll, Caitlyn Fagan, Christine Foglia, Greg Horning, Thad Izzo and Beth Tomlinson.
B-P’s Community Garden team went on to secure racks, seeds and planting trays and form student-based clubs in their schools for planting the seeds. They worked with students until schools closed in March and then tended to the garden’s first crop – garlic – after that.
Growing knowledge and seedlings
The B-P Community Garden project presented students with a new activity in which to participate at each school, growing their knowledge and greenery skills while working on a good cause.
“Students in the elementary and middle school had the opportunity to join our afterschool Garden Club,” said TLC teacher Beth Tomlinson. “We introduced gardening to them by exploring seeds and plants, and they also were able to take home soil and seeds to plant and watch them grow.”
BPMS teacher Caitlyn Fagan advises her school’s branch of the Garden Club, which had about 20 members last school year. “I am so excited to have the opportunity to advise this club,” she said. “Our students are so thrilled to see their plants grow, and they are excited about the opportunity to give back to our community.”
Before their school was closed due the pandemic, BPMS Garden Club members researched what a seed needs to grow, created objectives for the B-P Community Garden, planted their own seeds and watered and cared for their plants daily.
They also brainstormed and researched what fruits and vegetables they wanted to add to the garden and researched the benefits and responsibilities of composting. Fagan reached out to Levi Rogers, Director of Sustainability at Skidmore College and overseer of the college’s composting process.
“He provided us with tips and valuable information for implementing and managing a successful compost pile,” Fagan said. With this information, the club members began drafting a proposal to create a compost bin at B-P and planned to collect compostable scraps from their school’s cafeteria to add to the bin.
Garlic a plenty
Wendy Carroll advises the high school’s Garden Club chapter. “At the November staff development day, we built three raised beds, approximately seven feet by four feet, filled them with soil and compost, and then planted one of the raised beds with garlic in back of the Perth school near the cemetery. We chose garlic because it is easy to grow, needs to be planted in the fall, and requires little maintenance.
“Our original Community Garden goals were to involve students, the community, staff, students and parents in helping to maintain the garden over the summer, teach students how to prepare garden vegetables, and sell some of the plants and crops as fundraisers to buy more seeds and supplies,” Carroll added.
“Then schools closed in March, and the garlic was the only crop that we were able to harvest.”
Due to societal restrictions in place due to the pandemic, selling or giving away the garlic became impractical. “Instead,” Carroll related, “I’m storing enough garlic for us to replant this November. The committee can decide if we want to plant more or stick with about 100 plants.”
What else does the future hold? “As soon as the construction trailer is moved and the Perth site is available again, we will reconvene and work on our garden!” Carroll said.
In the photo at top of page: Garden Club members worked with raised beds that were built to grow vegetables. In the photos below, Elementary students explored seeds and plants and worked on the Community Garden while they were still in school, and they were given soil and seeds to plant and watch grow at home
It may have been wintry outside, but the plants of BPMS Garden Club members flourished on a window sill.
Community Garden team member Wendy Carroll, holding the 2020 garlic harvest, has a personal goal of enrolling in the “Master Gardener” certification program through Cornell Cooperative Extension. The national program takes a few years to complete and requires more than 200 volunteer hours.