Christopher Sulca didn’t know potatoes grew in the ground until the 10-year-old Frederick resident began a seven-week program designed to teach children gardening techniques.

The collaborative community venture led by Seed of Life Nurseries and the Asian American Center of Frederick teaches children how to grow vegetables. The program also imparts life’s lessons, such as healthy eating, conflict resolution and the dangers of drug and alcohol abuse.

“I also learned about how pollination from bees is important for food” production, Christopher said. “I like being informed.”

Christopher is one of more than 50 students in the program that grows vegetables and teaches them how to prepare the foods they grow on the Hargett Farm off Butterfly Lane in Frederick. Each week, the students take home fresh vegetables they helped grow and share their knowledge with their parents about how to prepare the food.

The children’s day begins at 9 a.m. with exercise, followed by a session on one of several topics that include health education, drug and alcohol abuse prevention, teamwork, healthy eating, basket weaving and logo design. Then they go out to plant and weed on the farm. A makeshift classroom offers reprieve from the sun and is used as a classroom and for lunch.

“The students are super excited to be a part of the program even though cultivating a garden, planting vegetables — doing something with their hands is all new for about 60 percent of them,” said Adrianna Roa, a health program coordinator for the Asian American Center of Frederick. “We also have a session on vitamins and their importance on the body, and which food source produces certain vitamins.”

It is not true that children don’t like vegetables, said Michael Dickson, owner of Seed of Life Nurseries.

“Once they start gardening, and they own the vegetables, it takes on more meaning for them,” Dickson said. “I’ve had some kids who’ve never eaten a cucumber say, ‘Farmer Mike, can we have a couple more cucumbers?’”

Each week, the children pick their own green beans and zucchini and take them home, Dickson said.

Dickson said the program, which is made possible with community and volunteer support, has been so successful that parents want to know if their children can take advantage of a similar project in the fall.

Susan Smith, one of more than 300 volunteers, records the names of each child who shows up daily for the program as a check to know who’s present in case of an emergency, she said.

“So many of the kids and the parents don’t want the program to end,” Smith said, “and parents say many of the kids are trying more vegetables because of the program. This is such a wonderful program that I’m just proud to be a part of.”

With 50 children, conflicts are expected and happen often during the first few weeks of the program, said Timothy Dupree, an AmeriCorps volunteer.

“We make them work it out, shake hands, discuss why it happened and promise never to do it again,” Dupree said. “Once they got to know us more, they listened. They’ve turned around, they learned to work together and now, they are very protective of their farm.”

The seven-week program is funded by the state of Maryland and many community partnerships.

Donald Shell, director of Maryland’s chronic disease program, said his office distributes grants from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to worthy projects such as the summer program.

“This is a great opportunity to partner with Frederick County’s efforts to get children more aware of fresh fruits and vegetables,” Shell said. “We partner with organizations that already have an existing relationship with families and children, and we agreed with Frederick County that this program offers a great opportunity to accomplish that.”

Shell said his office has worked with the Asian American Center of Frederick on many projects, “and we’re always appreciative of their work.”

Other community benefactors include Grace Community Church, Frederick County Workforce Services, Frederick Community Action Agency, Waterboyz for Jesus, AmeriCorps and Healthiest Maryland.

Dickson said he is constantly knocking on doors in the community seeking support for the program.

“Everybody wants to put their money in gold; I want to put my money into children,” Dickson said. “Sometimes, I’m a farmer, a social worker, a therapist and a guardian.”

(15) comments

digdugmd

A very worthwhile program. It is heart warming to know Frederick has so many caring people among us.

2tim1_7

The program that Mike and the other organizations who have contributed to the Seed of Life organization is fantastic. These school children from the Hillcrest area and the community workers have worked hard in the baking sun and are "enjoying it." The lesson learned here is not so much that they learn how to farm or plant food, but the act of volunteering and being part of a community. It is good for all people to give back to their community and to learn new things that someday may be used for good things. Seeing children from all races working toward a common goal in helping themselves as well as helping others is truly a good start. Keep up the good work kids.

firefly

Didn't know potatoes grow in the ground? Reading this article makes me thankful I was taught how to plant and maintain a garden growing up. I hope these children are also taught that eggs come from chickens and chocolate milk does not come from brown cows.

president8444

Agriculture not taught in schools ??

NASCARLOVER

How would you know?

2tim1_7

It may be taught in school but not at this level by doing. Farming was never taught when I was in school. This was taught by my parents and not by some teacher who may never have used a shovel.

kingesquivel

Potatoes come from Iowa.......

watson4sherlock

I think you meant Idaho. Idaho is the most famous potato state although potatoes also grow in Iowa.

See http://www.idahopotato.com/

formerfcps

There are no doubt many who think food comes from the grocery store, as if by magic. They think corn is created in a can. I've known stinking suburban housewives who didn't know how farmers managed to grow the mini carrots all the same size so well.

sodalite3

"stinking suburban housewives". I don't know what you are "former" from but I would consider HUMAN BEING as a great possibility.

business

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sodalite3

Son...you need to lay down and take a double dose of chill pills. Seriously...the anger you display each and every day has got to be an indicator of high blood pressure, mental illness, and repressed (thankfully) anger against too many people and way to many situations. Please get some help, medical psychological and maybe professional therapy...you REALLY need it. No one can be and stay as angry as you are and live a well life. Please make the call...if not for you for you family. You need to do it NOW!

dressthebird

Kudos to formerfcps for trappin' another idiot....

business

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Sanker

Having such a need to draw attention to himself with such outrageous comments everyday I believe proves just how insecure he is. Definitely needs some type of help, though.

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