TEXAS CITY — On a cool, cloudy Thursday afternoon, a group of seventh and eighth graders from Blocker Middle School in Texas City shouted, laughed and got their hands dirty.
The students weren’t at a playground or a sports field, but instead were at a vegetable garden at St. George’s Episcopal Church they helped build and maintain. Tall stalks of corn shot up out off the rich soil, and onions, squash, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, tomatoes and lettuce, among other plants, were growing in nine different boxes.
Pablo Alvarado, 13, a seventh-grader, dug around a white carrot until he could finally pull out the long, pale vegetable.
“I love harvesting because you got new fruit, vegetables,” he said. “You can eat them, take them home, share them.”
On most Thursdays after school, the students, all part of the 20-member garden club, can be found checking the plants and picking the vegetables that are ready to harvest.
Named the Garden of Hope, it came together by cobbling together partners from all around the city, said Robin Reeves, rector of St. George’s.
“We knew that we had a heart for the kids in this neighborhood and wanted to make a difference for them,” Reeves said
The idea of a teaching garden came up during a conversation with Natalie Clarke of the Galveston County Food Bank, she said.
The church had the land to do it, and then they found teachers Cat Stephens and Kamela Hueman, who were interested, Reeves said.
Stephens, a history and social studies teacher at Blocker Middle School, had been trying to start a garden at the school for years with no success.
One of the problems had been figuring out how to care for the garden during the summer, Stephens said.
By partnering with the church across the street, Reeves and the other volunteers found a way to maintain the garden even while school is out.
“We can do so much more together,” Reeves said.
Response from the students has been great, Stephens said.
“They are really into these salads now,” Stephens said.
The students learn about sustainability and nutrition and are able to take some food home with them, she said.
“We try to give them enough to take home so it can be a cookable serving for a family,” Stephens said.
For aspiring chef Briana Martinez, 15, that is a definite benefit.
Martinez said she would watch her mother in the kitchen when she was younger and eventually was able to help with the meals. Now she cooks dinner and breakfast for the family on most days, she said.
She’s used lettuce from the garden to make salads and some Brussels sprouts with ribs she made, Martinez said.
“I’m really looking forward to making my own garden to start my own restaurant and use my own vegetables,” she said.
Reeves said the garden was a team effort with the church, the food bank, teachers and area businessmen Tommy Clarke and Steve Mataro all pitching in to make the garden come together.
“None of us could have done this alone,” Reeves said.
Contact reporter Christopher Smith Gonzalez at 409-683-5314 or email@example.com.