Greetings from Abingdon, VA! This is Michelle, and I’m happy to announce that it is cooling down and we have had some rain these past few weeks. Our fall brassicas are happy and the cover crop is beginning to sprout. Another beautiful thing about fall is that we are back to work with our Abingdon High School students, which means our days are brighter and our workloads are less in the garden.
This season, we are trying a new approach (new to me), with our students. These students with special needs are beginning to train the next generation of AHS garden club kids by working with E.B. Stanley Middle School students. We see sophomores teaching hoeing to 7th graders, seniors demonstrating how to place produce down gently, and lots of laughter along the way. We are creating interest in youth to promote demand by adults in the future.
This exercise in confidence building has created a system of students who can arrive at the garden and get right to work. Just this past week, our AHS kids arrived at the garden to work, it wasn’t on my calendar so I sprayed with fish emulsion and BT and headed back to the office. Moments later, I got a phone call that students are in the garden ready to work. On my 10 minute drive back to the garden, the group had cleaned the wash tubs, cleaned harvest crates, and set up their weighing station. Once I arrived, the students scurried about picking out tools, delegating tasks, and creating a sign-in sheet. It has taken 3 years to get to this point. I have been apart of it for only 1 year. The satisfaction of picking beans with a 16-year-old girl who just last year, couldn’t focus on a conversation, but now will ask questions and listen to the answers is something that cannot be duplicated. Furthermore, looking up from my beans to see four students huddled around another as they learn to cut flowers is a striking difference between name calling and arguing. The EFIA demonstration garden sponsored by Grow Appalachia has made a lasting impact in the lives of our students with special needs and we couldn’t be more grateful.
The students are also taking food home and then sharing what they ate and how they ate it. We have some kids who will just stand in the garden and eat-which is exactly what they were designed for.
Happy Fall! ~Michelle~