Read about how the Highgate Library and Community Center’s community garden benefited from a RiseVT Amplify Grant last summer, bringing together a wide range of ages while providing gardening education and a big dose of fun!

Written by Virginia Holiman
What a summer in the garden it was! Our program began with the celebration of Day in the Dirt on April 27th, with adult volunteers cleaning out and preparing the garden beds for planting. A truckload of compost from Hudak’s was spread and tilled into the gardens.

On May 25th, the pre-school children learned about seeds/what seeds need, then planted the first seeds and plants in the garden and on July 1st the Creepy Crawly Garden Club started. We met three times a week for six weeks and planted seeds and plants in all the beds, identifying each and how they could be eaten/cooked/prepared. We worked on washing the vegetables (and hands) and on “using a knife” skills. Each session we created a healthy snack and did taste testing. Recipes were available to take home and share with families. Fun hands-on activities around “Eating the Rainbow”, fruit and vegetable identification, vitamins found in each, etc. were enjoyed.

Each day we watered…and watered all the plants, including the town’s plants in the park. The hot weather initiated conversations about all the hard, hot work farmers did to raise their crops for us. Each day we checked the area for “bugs”! We learned about helpful and not helpful bugs and kept a tally of bugs found in each category. (We had to use several reference books, and the internet to identify all the critters.) Each participant designed and created a papier mâché insect. We had great discussions about the use of pesticides and how we could find healthy alternatives. The kids were passionate about keeping the soil clean, and many of their designer insects were given the power to ingest poisons and turn it into “good stuff”.

We also took part daily in active games, some based around the watering and the “dreaded” weeding. New relays and cooperative games were developed around the hose and sprinkler.

Some of the garden was ready to harvest by the end of the six weeks, but the majority ripened later, so tomatoes, peppers, etc. were frozen, and the rest were picked and dug up to prepare for the Harvest Festival held on Oct. 19th. All camp kids were encouraged to bring a senior (BYOS) to share the bounty.

One of the goals of the summer program was to integrate the young community members with the seniors. We invited many older folks and a few visited the garden and the kids. Several said it was just too hot to be outside for very long. There was one senior who stayed with us for the entire program, and she was great! It was interesting to watch how the kids interacted with her, and to hear the questions they asked. She definitely established a bond with a few.

Bob Engstrom did a workshop about bees with the kids, and community members were invited. We also sponsored an evening “Putting the Garden to Bed” workshop with naturalist/author Ron Krupp on Sept. 10th and a book talk about Ron Krupp’s Woodchuck’s Guide to Gardening on October 1st.

The six weeks of the garden club were very busy and went by quickly. This was an exceptionally active group of students, and they kept our senior and I hopping. I was very pleased with the level of interest and thinking that evolved, concerning the growing of fruits and vegetables, and how that effects the big picture. There were some “deep” conversations….and some really goofy ones. The children were excited to share what they had created and eaten each day when their grown-ups picked them up. Many parents reported they were “instructed” on the day’s topics and snacks in the evening and I believe the 2019 summer camp at the library was a success!