Upper Moreland School District’s vegetable and flower garden has successfully entered its second growing season year this year. The garden, which is affectionately known as “Cubby’s Garden,” after the school district’s Golden Bear mascot, has a variety of vegetables and local flowers, each one sown, grown and harvested by the many hands of the school district.
Van Druff said it takes about 100 hours a week to manage the garden, and a network of school students, staff and community helpers to do so. The end result of Cubby’s Garden, which is located behind the Upper Moreland Primary School, are fresh produce available for students to eat during the school year.
Van Druff said, during the district’s summer sessions, students are treated to special dishes, such as vegetable pizzas, vegetable trays and zucchini muffins.
“We want to show children where food comes from,” Cindy Van Druff, the school district’s director of food services, said.
A Growing Garden
According to a on Cubby’s Garden, the garden was created last year through a $6,500 Farm to School grant. The garden project involved district students of the lower grades to participate in all aspects of the gardening process, from growing the vegetable seeds on classroom window sills to planting the little plants in the spring and constant weeding and care throughout the summer.
By tending the 18-by-110-foot sustainable garden, the participating students also learned a variety of academic lessons, such as math (measuring planting distance) and healthy choices.
“It teaches them responsibility,” Heather Barr, lower secondary school district teacher, said. “And, lots of different life skills.”
According to Van Druff, the garden project has grown to include all students of the district. Approximately 500 students from the primary to the high school throughout the year, including summer school, now help with Cubby’s Garden.
This year, due to the success of the garden project, Van Druff said that the school district also received a grant from the Penn State Cooperative of Montgomey County, in which the coop provided funds to help furnish the garden with soil and watering equipment, which very much came in handy these last couple of weeks.
“So far this year, the extreme weather [heat/wind] has been rough on us,” Van Druff said. “But we are still growing.”
The Three Sisters
The coop also provided some historical plants, adding to the educational value of the garden project. According to Van Druff, the garden received “throw bales,” a 5-by-5 foot bale of hay.
After pretreatment of newspapers, fertilizers and top soil, corn, beans and squash were planted on top of the bale of hay. According to Van Druff, the students are taught that this is a traditional Native American planting configuration, called “The Three Sisters,” where the corn stalks support the bean plants, which are both kept healthy by the squash retaining moisture as undergrowth.
Similarly, the coop also donated Monticello tomatoes, which Van Druff explains were first developed by Thomas Jefferson.
“These plants didn’t just appear in 2012,” she said. “They have a huge history.”
Garden Helpers Wanted
Van Druff also credits the gracious donations of vegetables for the success of the garden, including donations by Bucks County-based farm None Such Farms, who donated tomatoes, cabbages, lettuce and Swiss chard.
In addition to donations from local businesses and organizations, Cubby’s garden also benefits from community members lending a hand. These community members are referred to as garden-helper trustees.
Van Druff said that the community is encouraged to help with tending of the garden.
“It takes a lot of hands to grow the food for the children,” Van Druff said.
Jason Murzinski, an eighth-grader, is one such student. Stopping for a photo, Jason proudly held up giant bulbs of garlic.
“I feel that this garden is important because it has vegetables that people eat when they grow, Jason said.
If you’re interested in helping out with Cubby’s Garden, contact Cindy Van Druff at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 215-830-1522 or garden-helper trustee coordinator Emilie Springfield Stone at email@example.com.