New Vegetable Garden at Family Shelter

Posted On July 6, 2015 By | No Comments on New Vegetable Garden at Family Shelter

This summer has been very exciting for us.  Thanks to our Family Shelter AmeriCorps member Macy Margolin we have a brand new garden in the back of our Main Street Family Shelter!  We sent our AmeriCorps VISTA Lori Goldman to interview Macy back in March about the beginning of the project, the process of building the garden, and the effect that it has on the kids staying with us in shelter.  The photos are from the completed garden.  Enjoy!


Lori:  Okay, well, before we get started, what’s your name and what’s your role here at COTS?

Macy: My name is Macy Margolin and I am the Children’s Programming Specialist AmeriCorps.

Macy tastes some greens from the garden.

L: What sort of programs have you spearheaded this year?

M: Let’s see.  When I came in, there was already a dinner program and that was just on Tuesday nights and I have expanded that to include Wednesday nights.  And I am in the process of building a garden.

L: I need to know about this garden that you’re building.  I see some of it over here. 

M: Yeah, so right now we’ve started our very first seeds from the garden.  We have some celery, eggplant, peppers, onions… We are going to have over 100 square feet of raised bed space and we are hoping that this food will help supplement the dinner program.  Also, we will be able to offer vegetables to families at both of our shelters.


Lori: Back up for a second.  What’s the dinner program?

M: The dinner program is through Childcare Resource and we cook meals from scratch for kids and sometimes kids help cook.  We have volunteers—a lot of the volunteers are dietetics majors in school and are looking for community experience in dietetics.  So they come in and help with the program as well.

L: That’s a cool way for students to get involved.  So what’s the process of building this garden?

M: First we had to get a grant to do it.  And then we had to figure out what to plant and where to plant it.  That’s figuring out how many seeds you need, what kind of seeds, all the different construction materials you need, and calculating how much soil you’re going to need.  We actually have some soil tests at the UVM soil testing lab that we are waiting to get back and that will tell us how much soil we need to purchase based on how many heavy metals are in the soil.  We hope that it is low so that we can use the soil that is here. If it is high, we will need to purchase the soil and bring it on site. Right now we have seeds growing under a grow light in my office.


L: It seems like you know a lot about gardens.

M: I worked on a farm for a summer before college, and then when I was in college, I worked at the community garden.  I just do gardening of my own now.  But, I have done quite a bit of research just to figure out the actual logistics of building a garden from scratch. It’s a little bit different when you apply for a grant and you have a specific amount of money.  You have to be a little more precise then if it’s just your own garden.  That being said, gardening is a changing thing.  It’s very experimental.  You try things one year, you see how it works to grow things in a certain way, and you use the knowledge you have, take notes, and apply it to the next year.


L: What will be the process like for the kids when the garden comes to fruition?

M: We already have had kids in here who helped me plant these seeds and they really loved it.  There’s a bucket with soil and we mix that soil in my office, most often sprawled out on the floor.  The kids’ role varies by age.  For example, for the seeds, they have to be able to follow the instructions, put down the seeds in the right place.  For a really little kid, the garden will just be a nice space to hang out.  As the kids get older, maybe old enough to hold a shovel and do some harvesting, they can help with pulling weeds and generally maintaining the garden.

L: What are some reactions that you’ve had so far?

M: Well, I had one kid, the day after we planted seeds, he came home from school and he was so excited.  He started pulling something out of his pocket and he goes, “I saved my apple seeds from lunch!”

L: Oh my god, wow.

M: And I thought it was so amazing. You know?  He had taken this experience of sitting and planting seeds and then thought “What’s in my apple is a seed.”

L: Talk about planting a seed!

M: Right! He understood that that seed can turn into that apple, and that connection to what we were doing…

L: Obviously that means he was also just thinking about it.

M: Totally.  He was thinking about it, and he liked it.  A lot of kids have been really curious.  We had one kid who said something like, “Oh it just feels so good to have my hands in this soil.”  Kids are starting to feel more connected to the process.  It’s all very tactile.  You get to put a seed in the ground and watch it grow.  It’s such a cool thing.


L: I’ve noticed this trend of urban gardening across the nation, but more specifically in low income school districts. Where do you think that comes from? Why are we seeing more people talk about the importance of giving all kids access to fresh produce?

M: I can’t really answer why people are doing it now, but I do know that there is research that suggests that people are more productive when they are in close proximity to nature.

L: Oh, interesting.

M: Having a garden is a good way to bring nature into an urban setting and to help people interact with it.  It just has so many uses, like as an outdoor classroom, to teach science or to teach nutrition. You know, you can have a food desert when there is fresh food all around someone if that person doesn’t understand or recognize foods or doesn’t know how to cook them.  Really, introducing foods to kids through the growing process is a really good way to help fill in the holes of a food desert.  

L: That’s a good answer. 

Click here to learn more about Family Shelter and programming.

Categories: COTS Shelters, Education, Families

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