Start counting: there’s collard greens, squash, kale, Jamaican callaloo, sugar cane, onions, tomatoes, bananas, edible marigolds (yes, really!), blueberries, peanuts, lettuce, oregano, mint, sage and so much more.
This is the beautiful Garden Club at the Sulphur Springs PK-8 Community Partnership School, an estimated 800 square feet of space in Sulphur Springs, where students learn about growing plants and vegetables and then grow their own garden on campus. Many even go on to plant at home.
This has translated into a community workshop attended by many local parents and residents, who not only learn to grow and take care of the plants and vegetables, but also generate extra income by selling them.
The Garden Club is supported by the Tampa Metropolitan Area YMCA and the Sulphur Springs YMCA Community Learning Center, which is located on the school grounds in addition to The Department of Agriculture and Sulphur Springs Neighborhood of Promise.
This year, about 28 third-grade students participated in the club and got to take 15 gallons of needed food home just before spring break.
“We incorporate Math into the planting as we measure, count, and sort,” says Diana Kyle, master gardener, who oversees the Garden Club. “We grow and then cook healthy things. Pizza is their favorite though. They tell me it’s the best pizza they’ve ever had, and I tell them it’s because they grew the ingredients like tomatoes and basil. We cook easy things so the children are successful.”
In fact, Kyle helped create the “Garden Club’s Recipe Book” featuring these easy recipes.
“Food is expensive nowadays,” Kyle says. “We’re giving our community free plants and vegetables, and find them space at the Ybor City farmer’s market to sell. The YMCA is creating a ripple effect, and positive change. The kids are teaching their parents to plant and grow, and that is pretty powerful.”
Anica Upson agrees. She is a first-grade teacher at the school, and despite it being summer break, made the 45-minute drive from Gibsonton to attend the community workshop.
“This is so vital to the community thanks to the YMCA,” Upson says. “The Garden Club is amazing (for) sharing the knowledge and tools for success. I have grown okra, collard greens and tomatoes. It’s free, and we are learning just like the students. It is great to see families benefit with their kids.”
Nicole Kettermann, Tampa Y’s Director of Youth Health and Wellness, agrees. She oversees the Garden Club and continuously champions it.
“From farm to table, the Garden Club is helping the neighborhood,” says Ketterman. “Sulphur Springs is now a model community for other regions. We are being contacted to share our processes and are glad to help. This is an important initiative.”
We agree. Thank you to everyone involved in making this a blossoming initiative.
For more information about the Tampa YMCA, visit: Tampaymca.org.