Nineteen members of the Kennedy Middle School Builders Club spent nearly three hours pulling weeds, collecting organic matter for compost and laying mulch in the 1-acre community garden at Atlanta Good Shepherd Community Church on Thursday morning. (Check out an AJC feature on the garden here.)
The students were greeted by Pastor Richard Bright, who manages the 25-crop garden that includes greens, okra, squash, watermelons, beans, sweet potatoes, garlic and eggplant.
Fred Conrad, coordinator of the Atlanta Community Food Bank (ACFB) Community Gardens project divided students into three teams to work on the project and laying paths of mulch. The ACFB provides gardening expertise, volunteer help, tools and seeds to more than 150 gardens in Atlanta.
This is the second year that Kennedy Middle students have worked with the garden. “We signed a letter of partnership with them because we wanted them to learn,” said Bright. “Last year, we took 12 students to Fort Valley State University to visit their agricultural program, and four students decided that’s where they wanted to go.” The church will take students to visit Tuskegee University and Florida A&M University in the spring of 2010, he said.
Bright said senior citizens who work in the garden are able to harvest food. They also give to community residents, impacting the food budget for at least 50 people a year. In its second year, the garden has grown from a half acre last year to a full acre this year. The church funds the project and collects rain water to keep the garden alive. Atlanta Good Shepherd also partners with West End Academy students who work the garden three days a week.
Beverly Easterling, a Kennedy Middle teacher in the Program for Exceptional Children and faculty sponsor for Outward Bound and the Builders Club at Kennedy Middle, said the club was looking for ways to serve the community they live in. “This project allows them to give back to their community,” said Easterling. “It gives them a sense of community because this will be their community in 10 years.” Easterling added the program also ties in with the district’s health and wellness initiative: “Some of the students have never seen fruits or vegetables grown from a garden.”