Teachers, students, and PTA volunteers all gathered at Van Cortlandville Elementary School’s Edible Garden on Wednesday morning to take part in the gathering of the garden’s first harvest.
The project, which began last school year with a to establish the garden, was a complete success, and brought wide smiles to a new generation of young gardeners.
Children who had left for summer vacation while the seedlings were just beginning to sprout, returned this fall to find a thriving garden in full bloom. The garden bears a bountiful harvest of tomatoes, celery, onions, potatoes, peppers, carrots, pumpkins, sunflowers and more.
“We interviewed the kids and asked them what kind of vegetables they liked,” said Jessica DiPietro, a second grade teacher at the school who is also a co-chair of the garden.
“The children were able to grow their own fresh and organic food, and learn about wellness, health and fitness. It’s so nice to see.”
Each grade took a turn harvesting in the garden, picking what they had planted last year, and placing the food in baskets. Many children were impressed by the result of the growing season, and looks of amazement overcame their faces as they freed the onions and carrots from the ground.
“It’s fun because you get to pull it out and then we get to eat it,” said kindergartener Julia Perez.
The products of the garden will be prepared in the school cafeteria to make a “Harvest Soup,” and will be served in small portions to the children this Friday.
“We’re very pleased with how the first garden tuned out,” said Kathy Mills-Hasting, another one of the garden’s co-chairs. “Some kids haven’t seen these plants since they were two inches tall. They came back and were like, ‘wow!’”
Securely surrounded by tall fences, the area included multiple raised beds for planting, and a timed irrigation system which kept the plants hydrated throughout the growing season. Parents and students also volunteered to maintain the garden during the summer vacation.
Also attending the harvest were Jack and Karen DiPietro, who were joined by Dan Grace and Paul Fariselli of Home Depot. Jack DiPietro donated materials from his company, DiPietro Construction Corporation, for the project at low cost. He also built the garden for the school for free.
Dan Grace and Paul Fariselli, the manager and assistant manager of the Mohegan Lake Home Depot, also donated the materials and manpower to the cause.
“It’s great fun,” said DiPetro. “It’s nice to see the kids enjoying it. The design worked out well.”
“It turned out beautiful,” said Mrs. DiPetro. “Especially the pumpkins; those are really hard to grow.”
Superintendent Dr. George E. Stone was present at the harvest and stood alongside the garden and watched as the children gathered vegetables from the garden beds.
“It’s been such a great educational experience,” said Stone. “The project was a great way to use the space that wasn’t being used on the school campus. They really did this right.”