The children in the Ormond Beach Elementary School gardening club didn’t need to be told to eat their salad.
After school Nov. 20, they conducted their first harvest of the season, picking radishes, carrots, lettuce and herbs they grew in garden boxes, and then gobbling down the fresh salad along with mashed sweet potatoes, which also were grown on campus.
Ormond Beach Elementary is one of 12 Volusia County elementary schools with gardening programs funded through a partnership with the county and school district and the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Volusia County Extension.
children not only learn to grow their own fruit and vegetables, the extension service also provides nutritional education in the classroom.
As the children were eating their salads and sweet potatoes, Patrick Zayas, the manager of the extension service’s nutrition program, gave them a quick review about B vitamins found in those leafy vegetables.
“It’s great to see these children’ enthusiasm,” said Sharon Gamble, UF’s Volusia County Extension director.
Ormond Beach Elementary School teacher Francesca Knutson, who runs the school’s gardening club, said 20-30 children from third through fifth grade are involved in the club.
“The number is fluid during the year, depending on other clubs they’re involved with,” she said.
The children water and weed the garden beds with help from volunteer master gardeners, provided by the UF/IFAS Extension program.
Master gardener Vivian Bowden has been helping Ms. Knutson and the children with their gardens for three and a half years.
Ms. Bowden and her husband, Gary, helped build the garden boxes and install a sprinkler system. There are 12 beds growing cabbage, beans, strawberries and herbs; and just recently pineapple plants were added.
“We started with a simple butterfly garden,” Ms. Knutson said. “Now we’re hoping we can add a koi pond.”
The Nov. 20 harvest may have been just in time for Thanksgiving, but it was delayed by Hurricane Dorian, she said.
“We do three harvests a year,” Ms. Knutson said. “Radishes, carrots and lettuce are our 60-day harvest, which is normally earlier, but the hurricane delayed our planting by three weeks. We’ll do our fall harvest in December before the break and then have our replanting in January.”