Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Students' Interest Grows on Visit to Community Garden

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Students' Interest Grows on Visit to Community Garden

Article excerpt

Byline: MAGGIE FITZROY

Throughout the year, 24 Beaches gardeners have been reaping the results of their toil in the soil at the Beaches Organic Community Garden in Neptune Beach.

They've harvested many types of fruits, vegetables and flowers in the garden within Jarboe Park, yielding abundant crops of blueberries, corn, eggplants, squash, pumpkins, herbs and more.

But the community garden is also proving to be a learning tool for area schoolchildren.

On Aug. 28, second-graders from Beaches Chapel School visited the garden to learn about plants as part of a science lesson.

Garden organizer Gretchen Ferrell took teacher Trish Phillips and her class on a tour through the lush area filled with many types of summer crops. The 7- and 8-year-olds, used to seeing packaged fruits and vegetables sold in grocery stores, were fascinated.

They peered at tiny baby pumpkins growing on vines, sniffed oregano, mint, rosemary and other herbs and plunged their hands into dark composted soil.

"We've been learning how plants need air, soil, water and sunlight," said Tricia Randall, a science mom volunteer. "So this is neat for them to see."

The community garden's first anniversary will be Thursday, Oct. 1.

The gardeners who rent the 24 plots there pay $20 a month or $10 a month and three hours' labor in the common areas, and there is a small waiting list, Ferrell said.

In early spring, a small greenhouse on the fenced and locked property was vandalized but is being repaired with about $700 in funds collected through donations at Native Sun health food store.

Ferrell said she gives tours to school groups who request it to help foster children's interest in gardening.

"Does anyone know what this is?" Ferrell asked as she led the kids down a row of plants.

"A corn stalk," one said.

"I see a baby watermelon right there," one girl said.

As the kids walked up and down rows of plants, they pointed to and talked about what they saw. …

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