Seedlings Distributed to CHCCS Families
The greenhouse at Culbreth Middle School (CMS) has been an under-recognized, but well-utilized treasure among CHCCS school resources, but its impact has never been as wide as this year. “The greenhouse at the Culbreth Middle School is an incredible resource,” said Jess Pusch, the grant-funded CHCCS Garden Coordinator. “Since starting this position in the fall, I've really tried to utilize the greenhouse as a powerhouse for seedling growth and distribution across the district.”
On May 21 and again on May 26, a small team of “seedling benefactors” visited six Food for Students sites to hand out vegetable plants to families. More than 300 seedlings were distributed to help students and their families learn first hand about growing vegetables on a small scale.
Until schools closed in March, Pusch tended the seedlings at CMS with the goal of providing them to school gardens as a jumpstart to their spring plantings. Many schools have been building and expanding their vegetable gardens in order to educate students on nutrition and horticulture, as well as to grow produce for their own families who are food insecure or have limited access to local produce.
“Because our goal for some of the gardens shifted from student involvement and production, to general upkeep and maintenance, I ended up with a lot of extra seedlings for the spring season,” Putsch said. “I had approximately 100 extra seedlings that were just too much for what we could handle in our gardens this season. It wasn't a huge number, but it felt like too many to not get them out to some of our CHCCS students.”
“Half of the school gardens that are still functioning right now were planted in the spring with seeds and seedlings of their own,” Pusch said. “The other half were supplied fully with the seedlings we started in the greenhouse.”
“There was a team of parent/teacher/community member volunteers that helped to water the seedlings daily and take care of them as they spent months in the greenhouse growing,” Pusch said. “Nathan Jones, a recent Elon University graduate, spent hours volunteering his time to help transfer all 300 seedlings from their original pots to the compostable pots we used.”
“So many students that would have been experiencing the joy of a springtime garden, connecting to their food and the nature around them, will not have the same kind of access to that this year,” Pusch said. “With donations from Elon University's Environmental Department, and from generous local gardeners with big hearts, I gathered up 300 seedlings to do a primary distribution to students in CHCCS.”
The plants included tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, yellow squash, zucchini, tomatillos, okra, eggplant, kale, collard greens, and cabbage. During the distribution, families also received packets with planting and growing instructions, easy recipes for cooking the vegetables, and a garden-based learning activity for students to enjoy at home. They also received plastic pots, for those families without access to garden space or planters.
“My goal is to eventually be able to use the greenhouse throughout all four seasons to supply all of the gardens with as many seedlings as possible,” Pusch said.