2 min read
woman, children, garden

Children at the Pell City Boys and Girls Club were up to their elbows in dirt earlier in October planting multiple crops in new raised beds.

The four new raised beds are a result of a three-way partnership among the St. Clair County SNAP-Ed Educator Cindy Harper, the Pell City Boys and Girls Club and United Way Hands On.

Nearly 30 students had hands-on experience filling raised beds with soil, planting seedlings in the dirt and watering to ensure a good start. The students planted strawberries, romaine lettuce, Brussels sprouts and cabbage. The transplants were donated by the St. Clair County Co-op in Pell City.

Garden Upgrade

In 2020, Harper began teaching students at the Boys and Girls Club about gardening with a bucket garden. She utilized 10 5-gallon buckets and four 20-gallon buckets to plant tomatoes, bell peppers, squash and other vegetables.

When United Way Hands On began working on another project at the club, Travis Hanes, club director, brought up the bucket garden. He knew the prospect of raised bed gardens could enhance their efforts to educate students.

Benga Harrison, director of United Way Hands On, said raised beds were exactly the kind of program they could help make a reality. Harrison said United Way Hands On works to match up community agencies with local businesses to donate either materials or volunteer hours.

A partnership was formed with Maynard, Cooper and Gale Law Firm and Regions Bank to provide volunteer hours to build the raised beds. Later, the volunteers returned to the club to help students plant fruit and vegetable transplants.

“We know that everybody needs to work together if they are going to lift up their respective communities,” Harrison said. “We also know that from working with other gardening programs in Alabama, gardening is a great way to cement the curriculum kids are getting in school.”

Harper said the implementation of raised beds enhances the ability to provide education to more students at one time.

“It’s a gamechanger,” she said. “There is more room for several students to be involved at the same time.”

Hands In The Dirt

The raised beds were installed by volunteers over the weekend when students weren’t at the club. The following Tuesday, volunteers returned with club members to help students plant in fresh soil.

Harper said because the students hadn’t planted in the fall before, the seasonal fruits and vegetables were new to them.

“This was also an opportunity to expose them to new foods,” she said. “We also know that if they see the plant being planted, they may be more likely to eat it after it’s harvested.”

More Information

To contact Harper call the St. Clair County Extension Office (205) 338-9416 or email cgh0048@aces.edu. For more information about United Ways Hands On, visit https://unitedwayhandson.org/.

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