07/20/06 — Gardeners keep eye on harvest

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Gardeners keep eye on harvest

By Bonnie Edwards
Published in News on July 20, 2006 1:49 PM

A bunch of young gardeners turned salesmen beckoned motorists to stop Monday morning and buy their veggies under a tent on Harris Street.

Some of the children weren't too happy when their sales efforts were met only with a friendly wave.

But their counselor and tutor, Doris Braswell, said business has been good.

The vegetables are part of a little farmer's market set up beside a large garden owned by the First African Baptist Church. Customers park alongside Harris or pull into the church parking lot.

Mrs. Braswell has the children with her at the church after they get out of school at Dillard Academy Charter School during the school year. When summer comes around, school lessons are accompanied by gardening and sales.

They sell their wares from 9 a.m. until noon on Mondays, with an occasional Friday thrown in.

Growing vegetables was a new experience for many of the youngsters.

"These children helped plant (the garden)," Mrs. Brazwell said. "A lot of kids don't know anything about gardening. They couldn't tell you what okra looked like."

But now the gardeners know their okra, their corn, snap beans, zucchini and tomatoes. The have to, if they expect to make a sale.

Their cucumbers did not do well this year, but Mrs. Brazwell said they have high hopes for their watermelons, which still aren't quite big enough to pick.

In addition to the vegetables, the children plan to prepare their own cookbook to instruct others on how to create meals with their homegrown vegetables.

Monday, the gardeners did the hard work, picking beans and pulling corn, grass and ladybugs.

Shortly before noon, most of the little gardeners were under the tent with Mrs. Braswell.

Only 11-year-old Kentrell Teachey was out in the sunshine with Alford Williams picking corn.

Kendrell says he is a gradening pro. He has helped with his grandmother's garden.

He said he likes picking vegetables best.

"I've been doing this two summers," he said.

The afterschool and summer program is part of the Castles Learning Program. The group uses only a portion of the large garden on the land owned by the church.

Williams is in charge of the gardening work.

"We teach them to grow and harvest," said Williams, a member of First African who drives the bus for Dillard Academy and for the church. He was raised on a farm, and he said he loves gardening.

The Castles Learning Program was an all-volunteer tutoring program last year, but this summer, the grown-ups have a grant and are getting paid to do what they love. The grant was written by staff at Dillard Academy, he said.

Meagan Simmons, 10, said she's taking part in the garden program to help raise money for the Dillard Academy children to go on more field trips.

"We worked hard on (the garden). Even when it's hot, we still go out in the garden and pick stuff," she said.

They were picking more than vegetables Monday. They were also looking for ladybugs to put in a jar with holes in the top and study.

They hope their garden's profits will allow them to take a much cooler jaunt, a field trip to Wet and Wild in Greensboro.

The children started working on the project during spring while they were still in school.

Zaalia Outlaw, 12, helped them start the plants in pots at the church after school. And she helped pick some of the vegetables she was selling Monday.

"We have watermelons, too," she said. Her favorite thing about gardening "is getting to plant and pick the vegetables and eat them."

Jordan Worthington, 10, likes the gardening and the selling equally.

"My favorite part is the watermelons," he said.