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If you think that NYC teenagers are a spoiled, elite, bunch, you needed to be at the basil harvest at Columbia Secondary School Community Garden. About 25 students ranging from 6th to 10th grade were at their community garden to happily weed, compost and harvest eggplants, tomatoes, okra and huge bushes of basil on a warm September afternoon.
A year ago this was a weed-infested corner lot on 119th Street in Manhattan. Today, there are several raised beds with all kinds of herbs, peas, leafy greens and veggies, as well as areas of flowers. Picnic tables sit alongside rain-barrels and in one corner, a purple bench in memory of a student.
This is part of Professor Hill’s sustainability class, and what an ambitious project it is! Not only have they cleared masses of weeds, built raised beds, planted and tended their crops, but now there are plans to build cold frames to try to coax the basil into growing through the fall. And with the amount of enthusiasm the Accidental Locavore saw, there’s no doubt that the basil wouldn’t dare succumb to the cold (a note to Professor Hill, you could probably sell it and fund the garden for next year).
When I arrived at the garden, there were about six students eagerly awaiting Professor Hill. She turned up with a big bag of compost, unlocked the gate and the kids took off, dropping backpacks, grabbing gloves, rakes, hoes and clippers and went right to work. Before long, there were students everywhere along with a sprinkling of parents and Mrs. Robinson, the cook who was responsible for turning the day’s harvest into tomorrow’s pesto for lunch.
Now I don’t know about you, but unfortunately, pesto was never part of my lunch growing up! With the recent focus on what is served for school lunches, wouldn’t you want your kids eating pesto that came from basil planted and raised by students? If that sounds like a great idea to you, how about supporting the garden? Everything from the the seeds to gloves was a donation. When I asked Professor Hill how they decided what to plant, she told me that they planted whatever they were given.
That’s how you could have a voice in what’s grown on 119th Street next year…donate some seeds, plants, gloves, rakes, hoes, shovels, clippers, pots, hoses, or gift certificates to seed companies and yes, even money. If you’re interested (and you know some of you do have a few old shovels in the garage…) please email email@example.com. A great group of NYC students, Professor Hill and the Accidental Locavore thank you!
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