After months of watching their garden grow from tiny seedlings into colorful, edible treats, Roanoke youth enrolled in Preston Recreation Center‘s after school P.L.A.Y. program eagerly harvested veggies in early September. This year, the children’s garden at Preston produced fresh green beans, cherry tomatoes, large red tomatoes, onions, watermelons, squash, peppers, and cucumbers – all grown organically without chemical additives. Over the last few months, youth involved in maintaining the garden learned about overall plant and garden care, plant science, and how to prepare simple vegetable-based snacks.
“Making the garden gives the children ownership. They can easily recognize an outcome after hard work, and that confidence is one of the most important things that we can help them learn here,” said Vickie Briggs, After School Program Supervisor at Roanoke Parks and Recreation. “Some of our students’ parents have even started gardens at home, and we hope that healthy family traditions like this continue to be passed on to the next generation.”
The vegetable garden at Preston Recreation Center started more than five years and many of the instructors were relatively new to agriculture when it began. Over the years, the garden has continued to expand. Roanoke Parks and Recreation’s Landscape Management crews help till the earth each spring and lend the children gloves and shovels to use while they work. Aside from the work of a few hungry squirrels and rabbits, who enjoyed the garden’s fresh produce this summer, Briggs says the garden has never looked better.
After school participants are encouraged to take what they grow home to share with their families.