How Scituate Schools' Agricultural Club Brought Gardening Beyond the Schoolyard

By Sara Porcaro | Jun 22, 2021
At the gardens with Billie Jo, John, Elaina, and more

The last frost is far behind us, and for those with a green thumb here in southern New England, that means the season of sunshine, colorful blooms, and of course, fresh fruit and vegetables. With our colder climate, the slush and freezing rain persisting as late as May, however, it means many of our favorite crops--peppers, tomatoes, and eggplants--need to be started indoors in greenhouses before they can be put into the garden, and that makes a fantastic opportunity for students whose schools have greenhouses and other agricultural workshops to watch them grow up close and learn about the life cycle of plants.
For Scituate public schools, especially, it also means preparing for the agricultural club's yearly plant sale--and this year, after a great sale to raise money to support the club, they had plenty left over to donate to local nonprofits and other organizations. One of those organizations was Perspectives, who received a wonderful selection of tomato, pepper, broccoli, and other plants for the gardens at the Adeline LaPlante Memorial Center. Career and Technology Education Coordinator Shannon Donovan connected with long-time friend and Perspectives Senior Director of Deaf and Hard of Hearing Jim Simon about plant donations, and from there, the garden beds were built, and individuals we support were quick to help out with planting, watering, and caring for their many new vegetables.
"The individuals we support love going to the gardens," says Service Coordinator Billie Jo Gray. "They come out to the gardens every day to take care of them; it's something they really look forward to and enjoy."
The Scituate clubs' greenhouse has a long history--as well as several fantastic agricultural teachers, like the late John Leyden of Leyden tree farms--and so it's a place that inspires a love of agriculture, a fascination with fresh food and its many different uses and benefits, and of course, the pride of watching a living thing flourish under one's care. With youth organizations like Future Farmers of America there to work with school programs like the Scituate middle and high schools' agricultural clubs, as well as a synergy between disciplines when the culinary program uses the club's fresh produce for lessons, students learn not only how to grow their food, but how to use it in the kitchen, as well. And now, the individuals we support likewise have plenty of the joy of gardening to experience, especially when the fruit ripens on the vine for them to eat directly off the plants they care for.
"It's so empowering to know you can grow your own food, and that you can rely on yourself for a good harvest," says Shannon. "Knowing where our food comes from, how important clean water and good soil is, that matters. We're happy to partner with organizations and non-profits to share some of that experience around."
"It makes individuals proud, knowing they grew the food they used to make dinner that night."
"It makes individuals proud, knowing they grew the food they used to make dinner that night," Billie Jo says, "and it makes it taste better to everyone, knowing they put all that work into actually growing the food. Being able to eat it right off the plant--it's just a different experience, because there's no fresher food than that."
And beyond the learning, the gardening experience, or the fresh, homemade meals to look forward to when the harvest season begins, there's also something about a garden that makes it the perfect place to hang out. For Billie Jo and the individuals she supports, hosting Deaf Club in the gardens has been a blast--especially for relaxing activities like group yoga. For many individuals, it's also the first choice activity to spend their day doing, and with the green thumbs some participants developed from their own home gardens, they're happy to show first-time friends the ropes. To be able to stop and simply enjoy the quiet, the sunshine, and the many plants flourishing under their care is a treat in itself for those who just want to spend a day relaxing, too.
Best of all, the garden makes for a fantastic spot for individuals to meet up with friends from other parts of Rhode Island in a safe, socially distanced space, and with some beds at the LaPlante Center still waiting to be claimed by other groups of excited gardeners, there will be chances all summer for great hangouts. We're grateful to the Scituate schools' agricultural clubs for their donations of these beautiful plants--as well as the opportunity to learn and grow food with others--and we're wishing everyone a happy gardening season this year!


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