GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

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September 18, 2013

Beeman's fall harvest

Students relish crops they had planted in spring

Last June, students at Gloucester elementary schools, while savoring and lunching on their spring harvest, planted for the fall as well.

This week, they’re bringing in their fall harvest as well in conjunction with the communuity Backyard Growers Program, and pupils at Beeman Memorial Elementary School got the jump Tuesday on their colleagues across the city.

Lara Lepionka of the Backyard Growers said that families volunteered to water the gardens over the summer, resulting in school gardens filled with potatoes, carrots, beets, dried beans, pumpkins, and squash. In all, the garden project — funded through the nonprofit North Shore United Way-Women in Action — involves more than 1,300 students, all of whom are harvesting the vegetables they planted.

All of the school garden planting and harvest events are organized by the Backyard Growers Program and parent-led garden teams at each school with the support of teachers and principals, Lepionka said. The Backyard Growers’ mission, she said, is to introduce Gloucester families to the benefits of gardening, increase access to fresh produce through backyard and schoolyard gardens, and to build community and self-sufficiency through gardening. And the school outreach project has already come to play an important role in that.

Backyard Growers is working with FoodCorps Service Members to implement the school garden program.

“FoodCorps is a nationwide team of leaders that connects kids to real food and helps them grow up healthy,” Lepionka said. “FoodCorps achieves this by placing service members in communities for a year of public service under the direction of a local organization.

Harvest Days planned for the coming days include today at West Parish School, Thursday at East Gloucester School, and next Wednesday at Veterans School.

Plum Cove Elementary School students are also harvesting, Lepionka said, but carrying out their harvest celebration over a series of days instead of one day.

Anyone seeking to learn more about the Backyard Growers Program may contact Lara Lepionka at 978-317-8025 or lara@beaconstreetfarm.org. Those interested are also welcome to visit Backyard Growers at https://www.facebook.com/BackyardGrowersProgram and/or www.capeannfarmersmarket.org/backyard-growers. To learn more about FoodCorps visit www.foodcorps.org

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