Wednesday, November 20, 2019


 See this weeks print edition  

for these stories:

  • Area Bowling Results





Local News Article
Return to Previous Page

Growing a Love of Agriculture and Altruism with CROPS
Written by Kelly Chandler Staff Writer

        There are more than just string beans, corn, tomatoes, watermelon and eggplant growing at Salford Hills Elementary School.  There's also something a little more intangible – a love of horticulture and a genuine desire to help those who are struggling to put food on the table.   

        The CROPS (Cultivating Responsible Options for Positive Sustainability) garden was the brainchild of fifth-grade teacher, Janet Smith, back in 2009.  Smith said she was troubled that children receiving meals through the state's free and reduced lunch program during the school year were left without assistance, and many times nutritious food, during the summer.  

        "Having grown up here and having memories of helping each summer in my own family's garden, I thought we could do something on a small scale to help those families," Smith said. 

        Coincidentally the same year, a fifth-grader was looking to help Salford Hills go green for a class project.  With the principal's blessing, the first version of the garden was born.

        Now in its sixth season, the Upper Salford Township garden provides a variety of fruits and vegetables to both the community and students.  Every week during harvest time, the school hosts a gathering where students and their families can either take fresh produce from the garden, or swap with some from their own garden. Students are also encouraged to participate in a book swap to promote the school's 'Lifetime Reading Habit.'  Anything left over is then donated to Souderton-based food pantry, Keystone Opportunity Center.

        While they don't have a tally so far this year, the garden routinely yields upwards of 1,000 pounds of fresh fruits and vegetables for the neediest members of the community annually.

        Cindy Dembrosky, food pantry coordinator for Keystone, said the donations are needed and very appreciated at the center.  The center serves about 230 families in the Souderton School District each month.

        "Salford Hills and other donors impact us dramatically," she said.  "Most of the food we're distributing is in cans, so fresh produce is really exciting.  Nutrition-wise, these foods are much better." 

        But Smith said the garden wouldn't be a success without the efforts of many.  Each spring it begins to take shape on the school's grounds when the earth is rototilled by neighboring Daniel's Lawn and Garden Center, which donates its services and sometimes topsoil.  The 100 ft. x 50 ft. garden is then planted and maintained by students, teachers and families.

        Smith said students plant seeds in March and work is done to spruce up the garden each April on Earth Day.  The students' seedlings are then either planted at home or in the school's garden along with supplementary plants.

        "Our goal is to have all students and teachers involved," Smith said.  "One of our biggest pushes has been our hope to inspire people who have the space, even if it's a small space, to grow a plant or two or a garden at home.  For me, that's kind of the neat thing when kids show up and say, 'You should see the zucchinis we got' or 'We tried growing carrots this year,' or they ask for advice."

        About 60 families volunteer to weed, water or pick each summer while school's out and a Green Team, comprised of teachers and staff also provides labor.  Smith also rototills when needed.

        "It's a labor of love," Smith said.  "It's worth that.  It's not summers off for me.  It's a lot of work but it's fun at the same time." 

        Smith noted they don't use pesticides or chemicals of any kind on the space, including Miracle-Gro®, because they want the garden to remain untainted.

        "While there are definitely some plants that would benefit from that, we also feel like if we're going to be giving it to some of our neediest community members, and we're going to be giving it to kids, it needs to be a healthy alternative," she said.  "It shouldn't be chemical-laden and people shouldn't have to wonder how it's grown." 

        In addition to beans, corn, tomatoes, watermelon and eggplant, the garden is also home to cantaloupes, cucumbers, squash, peppers, zucchini and radishes this year.   Administrators said the harvest will likely continue through late September or early October.  

        And that means students will also be enjoying some of the bounty in the school's cafeteria, which makes use of the fresh produce whenever it can.  Students have previously seen corn, watermelon, carrots, tomatoes and peppers in the cafeteria line, Smith said, but they've also enjoyed pumpkin pies and carrot cake baked by fifth-graders made from the garden's vegetables.

        "It truly is a giant science experiment and every year is a little different," Smith said.  "The best part is the sense of Salford Hills community.  It's tangible," she said of teachers catching up with students at the garden during the summer, and students interacting with one another over a favorite book or helping in the garden.  "Truly the garden, and all of its aspects, is just one more way to solidify the ties that families already feel in a whole host of activities and events that Salford Hills runs."

        Principal David Purnell agreed and said he hopes to see the garden continue to thrive.

        "We are hopeful we can continue this service to students, it's a great environmental lesson, and for the community as well because that's what school is all about."





Join our Business Directory today and get the introductory rate for a full year.
Click Here.


Home Editorial
News Photos
Sports Business Directory
Obituaries Classified Ads
Calendar Contact Us
  Advertise with the Town & Country... It's the weekly paper that people read, not just look at!  Click here to learn more or sign up.   Serving the municipalities of Bally, East Greenville, Green Lane, Hereford, Lower Salford, Marlborough, Milford, New Hanover, Pennsburg, Red Hill, Trumbauersville, Upper Hanover, Upper Salford
The Town & Country is now available at 64 locations throughout the region! Pick up your copy at any of the locations here, or better yet, have it delivered directly to your mailbox!  Click here to subscribe.

Local News for Local Readers since 1899.
© Copyright 2009 and Terms of Use
Site Design by Bergey Creative Group