Smith Elementary

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Smith Garden is thriving because it has a part-time, paid garden coordinator, a supportive principal, volunteer labor, paid labor, donated materials, and funding sources for materials that are not donated.

The garden coordinator at Smith is a part-time instructor in the after-school program, LEAD. She is part teacher, part fund-raiser, part volunteer coordinator, part community outreach/engagement coordinator and part garden laborer.

Smith's principal is a champion of the garden, and helps provide materials needed for the garden to be included in school events that reach the school's larger community -- Family Fitness Night, Science Night, etc. She also helps provide materials for Cooking from the Garden Workshops taught by the garden coordinator.

Whole Kids Foundation has given the garden a grant, and has provided additional funds and a team of volunteers to help with several major garden projects -- a tool shed, compost bins, and raised beds. Green Corn Project provides volunteers, transplants, seeds and compost twice a year (spring and fall). Davey Trees provides wood chips, and Geo-Growers discounts soil for raised beds. YardFarm has donated vegetable transplants and compost.

The school's maintenance team has agreed to mow and weed-eat around the perimeter of the garden as long as areas to be mowed are clearly marked. This has been a huge help!

During the last two summers, the garden coordinator made weekly visits to the garden to do basic garden care -- watering, weeding, mulching and planting. A part of that summer labor was paid, and part was volunteer. A pre-K teacher who is interested in gardening volunteered her time on several occasions.

Because the garden was thriving during the past summer, garden students were able to harvest butternut squash and make soup for Writing Night in September. Students and their parents tasted the garden soup, and students wrote a short food review.

So yes, the Smith garden is succeeding, but there are still plenty of challenges and lots of work to be done: One corner floods when it rains and so needs to be converted to a rain garden. Bermuda grass is continually trying to swallow up the whole garden. The fence that surrounds the garden needs repair or replacement. Teacher and parent involvement has improved in the last two years, but the garden is still largely an after-school project.

Overall, though, the garden is doing fine. As all gardeners know, a garden is a living thing that continually grows and changes. And the work is never completely done.