Locals weigh in on gardening trend

| 15 Feb 2012 | 09:55

    SPARTA — The largest surge in both private and community gardening since the Victory Gardens of World War I and II is going on right now. Besides the many new private gardens around Sparta, there are now three new Community Gardens in Sparta. The Sparta Community Gardens include The Wendi’s Learning Garden, the Jack & Sue Community Garden, both located at the Sparta Middle School, and the Alpine School Learning Garden, located at the Sparta Alpine School. According to Lee Daly, whose family has lived in Sparta for generations, “Our gardens allow you to get a sense of stepping into a simpler time and place. A true sense of being there. The gardens are filled with inspiration. The nurturing spirit of the gardens makes everything okay.” Peggy Laddey, a lifetime resident of Sparta had this to say, “New friendships have blossomed, horticultural education for the Middle School children and the adults gardening there too, harvests are shared with each other and local food pantries. The gardens are a wonderful new asset for the Sparta Township Community. I am happy to be a part of it.” Miriam Tower, a former Sparta Township Clerk and now retired said, '“The gardens represent good old fashion community spirit. It’s a place to nurture your soul while tending the soil. In the spring it is an excuse to go and smell the earth coming alive with seeds. In the summer it is an excuse to go and water, meet others who enjoy the same things, learn from each other and marvel at how quickly everything is growing. In the fall it is an excuse to go and harvest, say goodbye for now, and hope to see everyone again in the spring. Yes, it is a place to plant anything you desire without deer or ground hogs eating it up but it is also a place to make friends and be a friend.” Renee Ferguson, a long time Sparta resident who helps lead the Sparta Ambulance Squad, “We have had very successful vegetable and flower gardens all through the summer. Meeting like-minded gardeners was an extra plus and donating to the local food pantry was very rewarding.” Mitch Morrison, an active community member states, “I love these gardens. They offer us the opportunity to literally grow as a community, to enjoy outdoor exercise and to feel the joy of actually growing something.” Sparta students have the opportunity to plan, to plant to maintain and harvest their garden. They learn the importance of produce through hands-on experience at their very own edible classroom. The children gain knowledge in science, literacy, social studies, nutrition, the environment, and personal skills areas such as leadership, problem-solving, and team building. Douglas Layman, Sparta Middle School Principal said, “For our students, The Wendi’s Learning Garden has provided them with the ideal learning environment. The students are made to feel that they have ownership in their learning through hands-on, authentic experiences that really makes the curriculum come alive.” The gardens are a microcosm of the environment. Landscaping with water, native plants, and habitat-friendly gardens is a portal for understanding concepts and issues in environmental education both at home and at school. The school programs foster environmental stewardship by providing the resources, knowledge base, and tools to help learners become environmentally connected. Sparta Middle School Teacher Amy Del Coro said, “The Wendi’s Learning Garden provided the background for connecting the students to the community; it allowed students think about the difference one small act can make. It also showed the students (and me) how there really are times in which it 'takes the whole village’ to get something done.” Deb Masterson, Founder of the Alpine School Learning Garden had this to say “The garden really flourished by the end of the summer. There were big watermelons, lots of herbs and lots and lots of weeds. Our Girl Scout Troop 918 went there and weeded the whole garden and ate some of the watermelon that grew. It was delicious! The girls were very happy because they knew the money they raised, not only helped build the garden itself, but also provided the seeds that were planted, which I think made the watermelon that much sweeter.” Please email mirm.mom@gmail.com regarding involvement with the gardens at the middle school and mastersons@aol.com regarding the one at Alpine.