Boys and Girls Club garden harvested by children
RONAN – The Children at the Boys and Girls Club of the Flathead Reservation and Lake County were surprised last week as they gathered in the club garden, located outside at the back of the facility, on Wednesday afternoon.
“This carrot has two in one,” Ana, 6, said as she looked at the vegetable that usually only has one body. She said that she had never pulled food out of the ground and was excited to learn that vegetables don’t always look perfect.
Another child asked the group, “Is this a real beet?” He held a dark-colored vegetable covered with dirt. He was informed that it was an actual beet. The children pulled a few vegetables from each of the 30 organic garden beds filled with strawberries, raspberries, one watermelon, basil, peas, asparagus, tomatoes, corn, squash, broccoli, onions, peppers, eggplants and flowers. The Lake County Conservation District provided the seeds for the flowers as part of their pollinator program.
The Boys and Girls Club qualified for a $5,000 grant from the Department of Natural Resources and Conservation, which provided funding for the materials to build the garden boxes. Staff member Heidi Fleury said funding was also utilized to develop a drip irrigation system. She pointed out the black pipes hidden amongst the plants in each box. “The system is connected to a timer so the garden gets regularly watered,” she said, which is handy when for when the club is closed. “The system was designed by the local Natural Resources and Conservation Service.”
The club purchased the seeds for the project at the beginning of the growing season. Sarah Klaus is known as the garden champion at the club, although her official title is that of a Big Sky Water Shed Corps member. She said, initially, the children were going to plant the garden, but the club was closed this spring due to the COVID-19 pandemic, so she put the seeds in the dirt. “Next year, the kids will be able to plant the seeds,” she said.
Klaus is in charge of developing the curriculum for the garden project. She planted the seeds so that the children would get a chance to harvest the garden. She got the boxes ready and waited for the club to open in mid-summer.
She also developed the garden club for interested club members who have been meeting once a week at the club to learn about plant health and conservation. The children were able to plant cucumber plants. “We explore the garden and do taste tests,” she said.
Last week, the club members, including garden club members, were brought to the club in groups, depending on age. On Wednesday, children in grades kindergarten to first grade were brought in to dig up produce. After pulling up a few vegetables, each child went to the outside sink and rinsed the dirt off their finds. With the help of staff members, they cut off the leaves, and then, the children put their vegetables into paper bags to take home.
“My hope is that the kids learn the excitement of growing and get a chance to experience fresh vegetables,” Klaus said.
In other news, the club is planning to open for the 2020-2021 school year with physical distancing guidelines and masks. Club registration for the year began on Aug. 12. Space was limited this year due to group size restrictions. Priority was given to club member families who participated in last year’s program. For more information contact the club by email at email@example.com.