By Greg Grisolano
WEBB CITY, Mo. — A group of elementary and junior high students in the Webb City R-7 School District are getting a hands-on lesson in horticulture, from the ground to the grocery.
“It’s fun,” said Brice Benham, 12, of Webb City, who is one of seven children to participate in the school’s first community-garden, after-school program. “I like harvesting the best.”
The children — from fifth, sixth and seventh grades — have been cultivating a variety of potatoes, green beans, cucumbers, tomatoes, squash and corn since May on a plot of land on school-district property. This Saturday, they took several of their wares to sell at the Webb City Farmers’ Market.
“We had some new potatoes, some cucumbers and a whole bunch of tomatoes today,” said Ron Walters, manager of the market and one of the supervisors of the school garden.
Walters said because of the weather and the late start the group got by planting in May, some of the vegetables weren’t ready to pick.
“Our corn wasn’t ready today,” he said. “Some of the potatoes were a little small, because the ground has been so dry.”
Benham and his schoolmates Caleb Kirk and Ahnika Littlefield were under the pavilion in King Jack Park, plying their merchandise, from about 10 a.m. until they sold out at about noon, about an hour before the market usually closes.
The produce drew favorable reviews from some of the market’s regular vendors.
“They had beautiful new potatoes, great tomatoes, and they had huge cucumbers,” said Dee Ogle, owner of Dee’s Gourmet Foods. “And the service was excellent.”
Ogle, a master gardener who also donated some sunflowers for the children’s garden, said she bought some of the tomatoes and potatoes from the kids.
“I had a blast,” she said. “I just love watching the kids learn.”
Walters said the goal of the program is to teach kids about the fundamentals of gardening.
“Hopefully the kids will get interested in gardening, and they’ll learn some things if they want to have their own garden,” he said. “It’s a little bit of marketing, a little bit of what do you want to grow, what do you like to eat, how much do you grow, what can you sell.”
Walters said the kids have been working on Wednesdays and Saturdays, either after school or at 9 a.m. during the summer. The group waters the plants, picks the ripe produce, and talks about the problems and plant growth.
“We’ll continue it for the rest of the year, and try and get the garden ready for next year,” he said.
In addition to the market, some of the produce has also been donated to the local Salvation Army.
By Greg Grisolano
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