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July 1, 2019

Public gardening takes root on town property

Photo/Vicky Moon
Liz Rose of the Boys and Girls Club of Fauquier guides members in the art of tending a garden.
Our first year was very educational for the kids and the staff as we learned how to care for our garden.
— Liz Rose, Boys & Girls Club mentor specialists
By Vicky Moon
For FauquierNow

Liz Rose grew up with what she calls “boxed food,” like cereal and instant mac and cheese, instead of truly fresh food.

So these days, it seems fitting that in her work as a resource development associate and mentor specialist with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Fauquier, Ms. Rose teaches children about gardening and fresh food.

All club programs target at least one of three priority outcomes: academic and career success, good character and leadership and healthy lifestyles.

“Our main target outcome for the garden is healthy lifestyles, with a mixture of beginning botany, sustainability, nutrition, teamwork and patience,” Ms. Rose, 37, said.

“They learn not only how to grow fruits and vegetables,” she added, “but also how to harvest and prepare meals with them.”

The garden project, with 27 youngsters ranging in age from 6 to 17, grows at the Warrenton Aquatic and Recreation Facility (WARF) on Waterloo Road.

“Andrea Rosse from the Piedmont Garden Club reached out to us looking for a space for a community garden project,” said Ms. Rose, adding that when the Boys & Girls Club began the program last year, its leaders approached then-Councilwoman Sunny Reynolds, Town Manager Brannon Godfrey and Parks Director Margaret Rice. “Many ideas were shared until Margaret offered to host the club garden at the WARF.”

As parks director, Ms. Rice seeks to promote healthier lifestyles.

“We wanted to encourage people to eat healthy, fresh foods,” she said. “The herb garden was to provide people with an opportunity to try out some different herbs in their cooking. Sometimes, it’s easier to give something a try if you can taste a small sample. If you like it, you can see from the herb garden how easy it would be to grow the herbs you like at home.”

Ms. Rice, 58, also included recipes in the parks department newsletter to offer ideas on how to use the herbs. Her department provided the wood fencing and tilled the land to prepare it for the garden. Fauquier High School horticulture teacher Susan Hilleary helped the children establish rows and worked with them on planting. Andrea Rosse provided funding to support the group’s needs.

Other than daily watering, the children take care of the garden, including ground preparation, measuring and roping off rows, planting, feeding, weeding, installing ground hay cover and planters along the fence, and harvesting. Following harvest, the children use the crops to prepare snacks and meals.

Ms. Rose said she looks forward to engaging new volunteers with gardening experience to expand the project’s techniques, the range of plants used and to improve the program, along with culinary skills.

“Our first year was very educational for the kids and the staff as we learned how to care for our garden,” Ms. Rose said. “We learned the challenge of a rainy summer, but we still were able to harvest many tomatoes and used them to make salads and salsa for the entire club. Our club members learned how much work goes into their food and how delicious fresh food tastes.”

Since last year, the club shared its story with the Delta Dream Foundation and the Washington Nationals as part of a “Healthy Habits” grant. They awarded the club $15,000 to fund a gardening, culinary and healthy snacks initiative.

And, in early June, Ms. Rose spoke about the garden at the WARF to the Piedmont Garden Club, which Mrs. Rosse, a resident of The Plains, serves as president. Club members voted to support the program with a $1,000 donation.

Ms. Rice watches from inside as visitors come and go at the WARF. Her staff also established a separate, small herb garden has been installed by workers at the WARF.

“When we initially came up with the concept, we then decided on an area that would be visible to the public,” said Seth McMurray, assistant director of Parks and Recreation operations.

For the second year McMurray, 44, and his maintenance crew have planted the herbs, weeding when necessary.

“We try to have a pretty wide variety so that there will be something for everyone,” he said. “We even have catnip this year.”

Ms. Rice added that visitors may pick herbs they want to try.

“We get both children and adults out learning and trying something new,” she said. “It’s exciting to see.”
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Cammie Rodgers · July 1, 2019 at 9:57 pm
Wonderful! Love to see this at every public school, especially at the elementary level.
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