By LANESSA MURPHY-SPAGNUOLO
News & Journal Staff Writer
It is the time of year when fresh produce seems to be popping up at local farmers’ markets and roadside stands, and some Harrison County youth are hard at work learning how to grow and care for working gardens.
On Monday, the Harrison County YMCA held a ribbon cutting ceremony for its new gardens. Organizer Lynne Menendez is working with children ages three to 16 who are learning the value of caring for gardens.
Several local officials, community representatives, and business leaders, and the youth turned out for the ceremony.
Menedez offered appreciation to all of the local businesses and volunteers who have donated both time and supplies for the gardens.
Tomatoes, peppers, endive (lettuce), potatoes, cabbage, zucchini, strawberries, beans, herbs, and flowers can be found growing in homemade boxes along the building.
Those homegrown goods are being donated to organizations in Harrison County such as the Clarksburg Mission, the local farmers’ market by Tractor Supply, and the United Methodist Temple Church Food Panty. In fact they have already had their first harvest and donated the produce to the Clarksburg Mission.
“All of our produce is being donated so the kids can learn about service to others and feeding the hungry,” Menendez explains.“I grew up in a restaurant so I was never hungry; I saw other people whowerehungry so I have a real passion for feeding. I can’t stand to see people go hungry.”
The gardens are the result of a $2,000 grant from the Whole Kids Foundation.
Menendaz works with the Harrison County Prevention Partnership and Harrison County Family Resource Network who are both partners on the grant. Under the Harrison County Prevention Partnership, she leads a youth branch of the United Methodist Temple’s Celebrate Recovery, Celebration Place.
The youth of Celebration Place planted most of the garden, but it is tended to by the Harrison County YMCA’s Summer Day Camp youth.
The grant also includes educational components as well. The YMCA’s location is a Civil War site. Presently, Literacy Volunteers of Harrison County visit the Y’s Day Camp each week to lead fun history lessons about the CivilWar. The Day Camp also has a science portion which is incorporating plant education.And once a month, the children are taught about preparing fresh produce.
“I grew up in the country. I knew about farming and raising vegetables and fruits and your own food. I feel like this teaches the kids a life skill they can learn and use their entire life to grow their own food or donate food to the hungry. It gives them a respect for nature and people,” she describes.
Several businesses, organizations, and volunteers from the area have collaborated to make this project a success. Many have donated supplies, time, and talent to help the garden project become more than just an idea.
Menendez says she plans to continue this program into the future. Right now, one of their goals is to get a drip water system installed in order to catch rainwater for the plants. They also want to incorporate food in their gardens that reflect the gardens grown during the Civil War era.
“I would like to see more organizations and schools expand and have more kids’ community gardens where they would actually be growing food, not just flowers,” Menendez goes on.
Menendez says any organization can bring their kids up here and help with the garden. They should call the YMCA for details.