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Adding ‘community’ to gardening

Youngsters from the Children’s Home of Easton are getting hands-on lessons in organic gardening this summer at the tidy Organic Education Garden at Mountaintop, outside Lehigh’s College of Education.

Every Friday, the youngsters are teamed up with Rodale Institute interns Janina Griffis and Greg Butler, who are tending to the eight-bed garden over the summer, and Tamara Bartolet, the College of Education’s marketing director, who made the connections and helps teach the kids.

“It’s great for them. It connects them with life,” says Todd Nemura ’94G, a residential house parent, who, along with Mike Banas from the Children’s Home, accompanied the youngsters to the garden on a recent morning. “It connects them to the earth.”

The COE’s educational garden, which sits atop a short hill near Lehigh’s apiary, measures 40 by 40 feet. Here, the Rodale interns are cultivating a host of plants: cabbage, chard, green beans, cucumbers, carrots, kale, herbs, tomatoes, zucchini, squash and leeks, and sunflowers.

This is the second summer that Rodale, which hosts organic gardening workshops at the site, is taking care of the garden. But it’s the first time that Rodale and Lehigh are working with the Children’s Home, which also will receive all the food grown in the garden.

The five kids who were on site Friday got to work soon after arriving, harvesting rows of cabbage, breaking off the leaves for the on-site composting pile, laying new topsoil and planting squash.

 Bartolet also gave them tips on how to cook up the cabbage back home.

So far the youngsters also have picked the kale and scallions grown in the garden. Griffis plans a lesson on honeybees, since the apiary is nearby, as well as on the flowers that are good for bees.

The work will continue throughout the summer.
 
Photos by Christa Neu

Story by Mary Ellen Alu

Posted on Thursday, July 17, 2014

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