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One Visit: See Inspiration Growing

West Hartford Store, Hartford, CT

Tia Battiston, Healthy Eating Specialist at Whole Foods Market West Hartford planned a visit to St. Thomas Elementary's school garden -- just 1/2 a mile from the store.  There she was inspired by both the students' successes and the challenges they had to overcome.

Lessons are Never Ending for a Garden Coordinator!

Janet Cashman, the school librarian, is in charge of the St. Thomas Elementary garden.   Her enthusiasm is infectious. Armed with passion and plenty of books about successful gardens, Janet admits that sometimes you have to learn things the "hard way"!  One example came from the 2012 potato crop -- nothing grew.  Last year, they tried a new growing method - see the photo below of the burlap lined laundry baskets.

Garden Mysteries

Tia shared a story with us about some mysterious “husk tomatoes”  that actually turned out to be Gooseberries!!  "It was a mystery for about a month with Janet, the librarian and I trying to get to the bottom of these small fruits, when one day I was walking through our produce department and saw them in a package labeled gooseberries!  So I excitedly bought the package and left them in Janet’s mailbox at the school to surprise her with the answer."

"The greatest lesson I learned in the garden was when the little boy pocketed the gooseberry during my visit," said Tia.  "The teacher pointed it out to me and noted that there is never quite enough produce for the kids to eat freely while they garden so some of them sneak the produce out.  It saddened me and left me with a greater drive to help their little garden flourish as much as it possibly can."

Plants can be Persistent

Tia was inspired to learn that when there is a garden growth spurt the students are able to sell produce at their bake sale.  Proceeds and any extras are donated to The House of Bread in Hartford. Tia also learned that plants can be very persistent.  For example, the garden had many "Volunteers" - not the people kind, but the plant variety!  The season's husk tomatoes re-seeded and appeared in other sections of the garden. Amazingly, most of their tomato plants have grown directly from the compost.

Sharing the BUZZ! 

When the kids complained about the bees buzzing around, it was the natural start to a conversation about why bees are so important to the garden.

The children used words such as FAITH, PEACE and LOVE on their adorable signs to create an optimistic, warm environment where their seeds sow. They have also built greenhouse windows for growing as a part of the school buildings brining nature closer to the classroom!

Janet's hope is to increase the garden's production, so Tia offered to connect St. Thomas Elementary with Whole Kids Foundation partners like FoodCorps.

And since Janet faces a common challenge among school gardens -- it's just her tending to the garden over the summer --  Tia offered to engage support from her Whole Foods Market team!