The Victory Garden at Kent County Middle School is $5,000 richer thanks to those who attended the annual Field to Fork dinner at St Brigids Farm in September. Farm owner Judy Gifford presented the check on Saturday to Sabine Harvey, who began the garden three years ago. Harvey, Master Gardener and Horticulture Program Assistant at Kent County’s University of Maryland Extension office, said in an email, “I am absolutely floored. I had silently hoped that perhaps we would receive $1000, but this amount exceeds all expectations.” She added, “… I will be meeting with teachers how best to spend this money, since we can do a lot more than simply buy tools and supplies.”
Not only do Middle School 7th graders assist in digging, planting, weeding and harvesting, (Harvey coordinates with the two 7th grade science teachers), but the whole school enjoys the fruits of the harvest at a lunchtime salad bar set up on certain Fridays. Crops currently growing include various lettuces, bell peppers, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, kale; there were even some lima beans and a few tomatoes hanging on. Harvey pointed out the cover crops of crimson clover and forage radish coming up in one of the beds.
Seeds come from the U of MD Extension’s ‘Grow It Eat It‘ program; this year the focus was on leafy greens, next year the emphasis will be on root vegetables. Harvey said that may be an easier sell, although she has to keep the kids away from the broccoli, and those in the garden for the last period of the day get to pick all the strawberries in season.She was amazed to hear that many had never eaten a fresh strawberry before.
Harvey said that students are offered a much healthier diet compared to other counties; she credits Margaret Ellen Kalmanowicz, head of Kent County Public Schools Food Service for actively pursuing grants to incorporate healthier foods in the school cafeterias.
And what is on her wish list? Harvey would love to set up a sink and prep station out by the garden, and tables for students to eat lunch outside. She did purchase an industrial- sized salad spinner this year; now she needs to recruit students to spin it. In the future Harvey would like to see the Victory Garden to become an integral part of the Middle School learning week, as well as make it possible for those interested in pursuing an agricultural career to begin their education in the middle school and take it right through high school and then Washington College. She added, “we are an agricultural county, after all.”