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Coming up green

Middle School Garden Club starts harvest early

Any gardener, farmer or discerning eater will tell you the same: food tastes better fresh.

That's a lesson students at Bethlehem Central Middle School are learning first hand this week, as the Garden Club begins to harvest its extensive plantings behind the school. The entire school will be enjoying salads made with ingredients from the garden today.

This is the second year the Garden Club has maintained a garden. Last year, the club timed the harvest to coincide with Harvest for Kids Week, a statewide initiative that runs the first week of October. A hot, dry summer forced an early harvest, though.

We're lucky that we're getting it done now, said Assistant Principal Mark Warford, who also heads the Garden Club.

Parents, teachers and about 20 students were at the garden after school on Tuesday, Sept. 21, pulling up, digging up, washing and bagging lettuces, carrots, radishes, tomatoes and potatoes. The garden also has squashes, herbs, beans and other veggies, all of which make their way to the school's cafeteria.

The Garden Club has 30 to 40 active members and meets twice a week after school, said Warford. Most of the club's labor is done in the first and last days of the school years, when the ground is warm enough to be worked with. The students don't mind the hard labor, he continued, partly because the rewards are so great.

"The love it. There's no comparison between fresh-picked stuff right out of the ground and stuff that's grown 1,500 miles away," Warford said.

The club doesn't just spend time tilling the earth, though. A lot of its time is spent educating the students about environmental issues and renewable practices. Warford hopes to do a "scavenger hunt" at the Delmar Farmers Market so students can learn about locally grown foods firsthand.

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