The Lindenhurst High School Vegetable Garden: “It takes a village to grow a garden”
A fond memory of mine growing up was seeing the work my parents and grandparents did to grow a vegetable garden. Summertime and watering the garden went together like peanut butter and jelly. The pride and care I witnessed were incomparable. I quickly discovered why it was worth the effort when I tasted the homegrown vegetables. Growing your own vegetables is a gratifying and delicious endeavor.
At our high school, we have a courtyard with beautiful flowers. When requesting a place to put the garden, our administration recommended the same courtyard. Being advisor of the Italian Club, I figured this was the best group to start the garden. A sunny spot in the courtyard was cut out and dirt was brought in. The Italian Club members turned over the dirt and planted tomatoes, basil, peppers, cucumbers and egg plant. The courtyard is located in an area that is surrounded by classrooms. Teachers and students became curious about what was being grown in the garden. The curiosity turned into contributions. Teachers started contributing to the garden. Oregano, strawberries and jalapenos were donated. One of our social studies teachers installed a watering system. The wood tech teacher donated and cut out stakes from left-over wood. Working in guidance helped, because I was in a central area for everyone to connect. It was an accessible area for teachers, students and staff to communicate.
One of the classrooms adjacent to the garden is the culinary room. During harvest time, culinary students use the vegetables from the garden for dishes they prepare. The eggplant dishes are my favorite lunches. In the off season, they have given us daily “scraps” for compost. The faculty lounge also received bowls of vegetables from the garden. In the off season, they also contributed to the compost. A plastic container is placed in the faculty lounge to collect coffee grinds. Students are assigned to pick up the container every week. The garden brought many people together on a cause. Throughout the building, I have found that small, everyday habits made a big difference in cultivating a positive attitude. It is now becoming natural to hear people ask about the start date for the garden. The responsibility the students carry out in maintaining the garden has been impressive. Students are assigned to water and maintain the garden. It has been a tool to teach and bring out teamwork.
School is usually scheduled to end at the time the first vegetables begin to mature. Some officers from the club are scheduled to come in and water. Secretaries from the school donate time to help the students with the watering and harvesting process. Many staff members who have summer hours take some vegetables home. The maintenance staff has also enjoyed adding the vegetables to their salads and sandwiches.
The Italian Club’s first meeting is held in the culinary room. The members make bruschetta from our own home-grown tomatoes. It was a room filled with pride and sense of accomplishment. (The most attended meeting of the year.) Our culinary teachers shared with me that students are more willing to eat vegetables knowing they had a hand in growing them. They also noted that vegetables off the plants to the plate are more nutritious. The success of the garden is a result of the care it has received from everyone in the building.
(John Rossillo is a guidance counselor at Lindenhurst High School)