Bethel Park elementary students help community garden

Published May 5, 2014 at 3:01 pm (Updated May 5, 2014 at 3:01 pm)

Bethel Park School District students and members of the community are getting a chance to learn about growing their own food through a newly established community garden.

The Samuel and Anna Mae Richardson Community Garden project was initiated by Diane Ford, on a parcel of lend left to her by her grandparents. The garden, located in vacant lot on Willow Avenue, is named in memory of the grandparents.

Ford said her vision for the garden is a place where local residents and students can work together to learn about nurturing plants while also learning how to live a healthy lifestyle by adding incorporating the vegetables they grow into their diets.

The resident of the Coverdale neighborhood approached Bethel Park School District Superintendent Nancy Rose about getting students at Ben Franklin Elementary School involved with the project.

“She loved the idea,” said Ford.

The growing project has taken off with the school district and also with the community.

Students have already started seedlings in pots in their classrooms and are anxious to plant them in the garden, Rose said.

“We’ll see which teachers have a green thumb,” she joked during a recent discussion about the project.

The official groundbreaking was held April 8, and earlier this month, fourth graders at Ben Franklin planted lettuce and are tending the potted vegetables in their classrooms. They will plant the growing lettuce plants in the garden, once the beds are ready and the weather warmer. Each grade level will have its own raised bed to plant.

A few weeks ago, a representative of Grow Pittsburgh visited the school to conduct staff training, and students attended an assembly to learn about caring for the garden.

Ford said students and volunteers will be planting not only lettuce, but also radishes, onions, watermelon and corn. She has hopes that the project will grow to the point where the students will eventually be able to sell the crops they grow at the local farmer’s market, Ford added.

Not only school students, but garden neighbors and other residents are also getting involved with the growing project.

Andy Amrhein, owner of Evey Hardware, is adding his expertise, and each step of the project is being documented of his cable access TV show “Around Town” on BPTV-Channel 7.

Rose said students and their families will be encouraged to visit the garden throughout the summer.

“They will be returning to school about the time the crops are ready to harvest,” she said, adding that district officials are already making plans to incorporate some of those harvested vegetables into school lunches.

In addition, teachers and administrators have discussed building a greenhouse and are researching grants to fund that and other garden projects.

Ford is holding monthly meetings for those who wish to be involved with the garden. Meetings are held from 3-4 p.m. the first Saturday of each month at the Bethel Baptist Church, 2899 Cherry Street. The next meeting is scheduled for May 3.

Volunteers are needed to escort the students to and from the school on planting day as well as to tend the garden and to maintain the volunteer database.

“When we work together a whole lot can be accomplished,” Ford said.

More information can be found on The Samuel and Anna Mae Richardson Community Garden Facebook page.

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