When Brunswick Job Corps Center's Landscaping students began working on the center's ARRA-funded organic garden, many of them had never seen a garden before, much less worked toward harvesting one. The sense of discovery and wonder that comes with planting a small seed, nurturing it, and watching it become food right before your eyes, was new and exciting to the students.
Working with their Landscaping instructors, the students took a weed-infested area and tilled it using hoes, rakes, and shovels to prepare it for planting. They planted a variety of vegetables, including okra, tomatoes, zucchini, cucumbers, straight-neck squash, crookneck squash, banana peppers, and sweet peppers, all of which turned out to be a success.
In fact, Culinary Arts instructor Mary Quince was so impressed with the garden's bounty that she started using the tomatoes, peppers, and okra in the center's cafeteria.
"The students really enjoyed it and got involved because each day something changed in the garden – something grew an inch or started producing a flower – so every day was a new experience for them," Landscaping instructor Kevin Brandon said. "A lot of our students are inner-city students who had never seen a garden and didn't know where a tomato came from, so it exposed them to seeing a lot of things that they may never see at home."
The garden became so popular on campus that word spread throughout the center, and staff members and other students would take daily trips to the garden to see what had grown since the previous day.
"We were all a little nervous that the plants wouldn't grow since it was our first time to grow a garden, but it turned out great," Landscaping student Trisdon Manson said. "Our efforts paid off as all seeds and bulbs grew and bloomed according to plan."
Just like First Lady Michelle Obama's bountiful White House garden, Brunswick Job Corps' garden is opening students' eyes to a whole new world of healthy, locally grown fruits and vegetables that will, in turn, help them educate their families and communities.