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Students in Lee County School Cultivate Garden

5:50 PM, Sep 24, 2018

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Gabriel Castaneda

Kids learn different skills at school and what started off as a small endeavor to help those in need, has turned into an educational program. Giving students healthy nutrition options for kids in school and it continues to feed the hungry.

Trafalgar Middle School is teaching kids to grow their own food with their very own 30,000 sq. ft. in-school garden.

Students Cultivate School Garden

The garden is offering students a variety of fruits and vegetables. When the harvest is ready, students go around and pick the ripe fruit and vegetables. They then take what they harvested to the school cafeteria for all the students to enjoy.

“It started out as to help people have fresh vegetables,” Al Piotter said, a teacher at Trafalgar Middle School and head of school garden project. “It’s growing into where we have classes and now it’s nutritional, it’s educational, it feeds the hungry, all of the above, whatever we can do.”

Cafeteria manager, Maura Quinones, told HelloSWFL that students love eating the food they planted themselves.

“We get about three different lettuces, eggplants, peppers, tomatoes about three different tomatoes,” Quinones said. “They're even harvesting strawberries. We get two types of spinach, colored carrots, we get our purple carrots, our white carrots, our normal orange carrots.”

Whatever the students at the Lee County school don’t use in the cafeteria, will be donated to local charities.

“We donate to the cafeteria and then what they don’t use, Community Coop comes and picks it up and uses it in their soup kitchen and meals on wheels," Al Piotter said, "because they don’t get fresh vegetables very often."

The garden was built and continues to run on community efforts. The cost to operate the project runs up to $5,000 dollars a year and it is funded through volunteers, donations and grants.

Within the garden, you can find a specially designated area called, "The Garden of Opportunity," which gives disabled students a chance at gardening, too.

In some parts of the student-run garden, remnants of Hurricane Irma are present. Al Piotter said that about 20 or 30 trees out of 80 are all growing back.

“We got just about anything you can name custard apple, jackfruit, papaya, star fruit, mulberry, mango,” Piotter said.

On a beautiful day, Nicole Sutton, a Trafalgar Middle School student showed one of the tools used in harvesting more than 17 tons of produce at the community garden.

"This is vertical gardening," Sutton said, who a couple months ago had little knowledge of horticulture practices. "Usually plants will fall over when they're growing. This just stands them up so it is easier to pick the fruits and vegetables off."

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