Growing Veggies at Somerville High
This is the first growing season for a schoolyard garden that a group of environmentally minded students built themselves.
In the Somerville High School courtyard last week, two 17-year-old girls showed off a medley of spring vegetables they had grown in a pair of raised, wooden beds. Rainbow chard, arugula, broccoli, radishes, carrots, sugar snap peas and a selection of lettuces sprouted from the mix of soil and compost.
The girls, Tania Ahmed and Zoe Blickenderfer, have been friends and gardeners for several years. Both are former members of the East Somerville Community School’s garden club. They built the garden at the high school last fall with help from students in the school’s Green Club. Members of Groundwork Somerville, an environmental non-profit that tends school and community gardens, also helped.
Tai Dinnan, who runs the organization’s schoolyard gardens programs, said the Somerville High School garden now "looks awesome."
“It’s a happy spring garden site,” she said.
Ahmed developed her taste for gardening and local food from participating in the organization’s youth programs, which taught her how to grow food from seeds.
“It was so much different than what food tasted like at the supermarket,” said Ahmed.
That difference was a revelation to her, and she wanted to pass the message on to her peers.
To do so, Ahmed turned to Youth Venture, an international organization that encourages enterprise among teenagers, and received a $1000 grant to start the garden.
More than a dozen members of the school’s Green Club, which Blickenderfer started three years ago, helped build the garden and now maintain it at weekly meetings.
Expanding the garden and using it as a teaching tool
In the short term, Ahmed and Blickenderfer said they would like to build more beds and plant a spice garden in the courtyard. Ahmed said she still has a good amount of the grant left to buy supplies, but she is already thinking of fundraising.
The girls also want to get more students interested and involved in the garden, a sentiment their principal, Tony Ciccariello, shares. Ciccariello said he approved the construction of the garden not only because it would beautify the courtyard, but also because students in the special education and culinary arts programs might benefit from it.
The Green Club’s coordinator, social studies teacher Kara Carpenter, agreed. She said that in the long term she would like students in the culinary arts vocational program to learn more about eating locally and to teach members of the Green Club how to cook with the plants.
In the meantime, Carpenter plans to harvest the lettuce and vegetables toward the end of the school year so she and her students could make a salad to celebrate their first growing season.
Over the summer, the Green Club will look after the garden, and Ahmed and Blickenderfer said they will be looking for colleges that offer majors in environmental science.