Local volunteers and Master Gardeners mingled with children, tomatoes, squash, marigolds and zinnias on a mild mid-morning outside the salesroom on Louisiana Tech’s South Campus recently to enjoy the first-ever Garden Party, an event hosted by the Boys and Girls Club of North Louisiana.
The interactive event highlighted the partnership between Tech and the Boys and Girls Club, one that’s educating children on how to grow both flowers and food “so they’ll have some options when they’re home,” Sabrina Love, Boys and Girls Club (BGC) Chief Programming Officer, said as she stood in front of six new beds nurtured by local children.
Love said BGC was one of three organizations in the state asked to participate in the nutrition education project through a Humana Grant.
“We understood our limitations at the club,” she said, “so we asked Tech.”
Old beds on the site were ripped up and Tech Farm staff built six new ones. The children helped shovel the donated dirt and plant both flowers and vegetables. Lately, they’ve been picking zucchini and eggplant, and the staked tomatoes are almost ready.
“I can’t believe our babies did this,” a beaming Judy Wilson, BGC Director of Resource Development, said as she looked at the clean and colorful beds.
“With young people at this age, this is where seeds are planted,” Dr. Paul Jackson, Associate Professor in Tech’s Department of Agricultural Sciences and Forestry, said. “Gardening used to be a necessity, and it’s become more of a hobby. Now it may become more of a necessity again.”
If it does, Jackson, who’s worked with the club all spring, will have helped tomorrow’s gardeners learn “how to grow your own food and be sustainable,” he said.
“They’ll forget I helped them or some of these Master Gardeners were here, but they won’t forget the experience,” said Jackson, who’s welcomed the children to campus a couple of afternoons a week to plant and nurture and weed the beds. “They’ll remember they helped in a garden, and they’ll remember the fundamentals of how to do this.”
Club participants Londyn Armstrong and Amarion Williams probably “picked the most weeds out of the garden,” Love said.
“We helped put the soil in the beds,” Armstrong said, “then laid out the straw, picked out which fruit or vegetable went in, then dug the hole and either put in seeds or a plant with roots.
“I wanted to learn this so I could help my grandmother do her garden at home.”
Volunteers will help tend the beds when the children are absent some this summer, but in the fall, they’ll learn about how to grow broccoli, cauliflower, collard greens, lettuce, and more.
In the three booths set up by the Salesroom, partygoers were encouraged to “taste test” from the gardens, paint rocks to go into the beds, or write cheerful notes on the seats of benches to be incorporated into the area.
The youngsters handed out thank-you cards, each one colorful and autographed and handmade by recycled products at the club. Each read, “Thank you for supporting our garden!” which volunteers can do by calling BGC at 318.255.2242 or visiting bgcofnl.org.