Groton on the Inside: Groton HARVEST teaches community how to reap its own

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The Groton High School cafeteria became a community classroom for an evening on Wednesday, May 8. It was the kickoff for the Groton HARVEST Garden Plot Project, as 25 Groton families gathered there to learn what they will be doing this summer to grow their own produce, “raised-bed square-foot gardening style,” in partnership with the Groton HARVEST (GH) initiative.


It was just a little less than a year ago when Groton Central School was notified that it was the recipient of a very generous multi-year “Groton HARVEST” grant through the Park Foundation that would be focusing on healthy eating both in and outside of school for the entire Groton community.


By the end of June 2018, the GH steering committee was established, including GCS food service director, Kelly Neville, superintendent, Margo Martin, the director of the Groton Public Library, Sara Knobel, representatives from Groton Recreation and the Cornell Cooperative Extension, and key leaders from the Park Foundation, which developed a plan of action for building a community-driven, sustainable nutrition project that improves access throughout Groton to nutritious meals, educational programs, and wellness activities for families.


Throughout the course of this past year, the Park Foundation grant has made a tremendous impact on our community, as it has provided access to healthy food for our students in school for breakfast and lunch; subsequently helping to change students’ mindsets so that they actively choose to eat nutritiously.


While that is only the “tip of the iceberg” (pun intended) as far as what GH has provided to enhance family knowledge of healthy eating choices in Groton, the Garden Plot Project is another amazing opportunity for families to learn about gardening, self-sustainability, and how to grow their own fresh produce annually, even if they only have access to a small plot of land.


The “how to” was clearly demonstrated to those first 25 families who committed to take the project on by Groton High School’s new agriculture teacher, Dr. Jason Oliver, who is an integral part of GHS’ new STEAM Learning Center, the leader of the school’s chapter of the Future Farmers of America, and a member of the Groton Harvest Committee.


During his presentation, Oliver explained the concept of the gardening method, which essentially saves the gardener time, effort, tools, space, and water. Each family will be provided with a 4 by 4 by 12-foot garden box in mid-May, which were made by the STEAM Center’s Building Trades students.


In mid-June, seedlings will be delivered for the families to plant in 1 by 1-foot squares within the box, which have been planted, grown, and nurtured by the Agriculture Program students until the plants are ready to be delivered. Tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, carrots, beets, beans, spinach, kale, lettuce, and herbs are some of the produce that will be grown in the gardens.


Each family will also receive a gardening plan and instructions, and support throughout the course of the project. Superintendent Martin said, “This is not a ‘one-and-done’ evening for you. We will be available to help and guide and answer questions throughout the project and will be sending out regular emails along the way also.”


After Oliver went through a PowerPoint presentation to show the “budding gardeners” what the boxes will look like, how to set them up, explained what the provided soil will be composed of and how to lay a weed barrier first, he then moved to a hands-on demonstration of the proper way to transplant the seedlings with the use of an Elmo projector to ensure that everyone in the room would be able to see what was happening.


The real beauty of this project is the interactive support that can occur for anyone at any point during the course of the gardening season, and even beyond, via different methods of communication such as a designated Facebook page, a phone call to the Cornell Cooperative Extension, a plant trouble-shooting website, and an email address that GHS Agriculture students will be monitoring and responding to.


Each gardening family is also responsible for journaling about their experience throughout the project, but there will be support and specific guidance for that portion of the project also.


In full disclosure, I am one of the “gardeners” who is taking on the challenge, and I couldn’t be more excited about doing it, with the help of my Pre-K and Kindergarten-aged grandchildren, this summer. I plan to give you, my readers, some periodic updates in the coming months, so keep your eye right here for it!

Groton on the Inside appears weekly. Submit news ideas to Linda Competillo, lmc10@cornell.edu or 607-227-4922.

In brief:

Steak’s on in McLean
The McLean Community Church, 50 Church St., will be the venue for another of its famous steak dinners from 4 p.m. until the food is gone Saturday, May 18.


The $15 meal includes ribeye steak made with their delicious and “best-kept secret” marinade, baked potato, vegetable medley, tossed salad, rolls, beverages, and homemade pie. Reservations are highly recommended by calling (607) 838-3450. Take-out dinners are also available.

Opioid addiction
All are welcome to join Foodnet Meals on Wheels as it partners with Cayuga Addiction Recovery Services (CARS) for a presentation on the current opioid crisis from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. Wednesday, May 22, at Center Village Court, 200 W. South St.


Outreach Specialist, Brad Walworth, will present some eye-opening information on opioid addiction and its effects on families.


Join Foodnet for a nutritious lunch following the presentation. Reservations are required at least one day in advance by calling (607) 266-9553. Lunch is available to all individuals who are 60 and older for a voluntary financial contribution. Those under 60 may attend for a cost of $8 per meal.

Groton Community Night
It’s never too soon to save the date for the 5th Annual Groton Community Night, 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 6 at the Groton Memorial Park on Sykes Street. This event is hosted by the Groton Girl Scouts who are excited to announce that they received a small grant from the Tompkins County Tourism Program to help make this year’s event even better! More information will be available soon, but dinner, activities, and entertainment will once again be offered for FREE to all attendees.

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