This weeks’ blog comes from Moorestown High School student, Rachel Napoliello.  Rachel contacted Live Civilly in Spring of 2014 after agreeing to lead a garden initiative at Moorestown High School.  While Live Civilly is not a “garden club” part of the Community Service opportunities we offer center around food security:  Teaching youth about gardening and its importance in the local food-scape.  The Live Civilly Community Supported Gardens are designed to get young people active in food security efforts:  Learning about where their food comes from, how to grow it, tend it and ultimately the importance of fresh food.  The food that is harvested from the gardens located at the schools gets a “first run” in the school cafeteria.  During the summer months, all produce is vectored to the local food pantries.  This is a story about how one young girl has become an important cog in the wheel of nutritional outreach while acquiring some good life skills along the way.

My name is Rachel Napoliello and I am leader of a garden initiative at my local high school.  The project began during the 2013-14 school year when the Interact Club (community service club) offered a leadership position to start a garden at our school.  I am involved with the high school Horticulture Club, so I figured I would sign up for the opportunity.  I had never led a project before so I wanted to try my hand in leadership, which is admittedly not one of my strong suits.  I really enjoy gardening and one of my prized possessions is a lemon tree I grew from a grocery store lemon seed.  The next few months turned out to be quite an adventure and I learned a lot about gardening and leadership!

Over the next few months I wrote a proposal, which required me to map out the design of the garden (which I changed about 4 times), calculate costs, and list materials.  When I showed my proposal to our Principal, Mr. Seibel, he was extremely supportive.  The more people I met with during the planning phase, the more questions I found I had to answer.  Interact Club then suggested I reach out to Kahra Buss, president of Live Civilly.  Live Civilly had just completed a garden project at the Upper Elementary School and was interested in providing the teaching and learning opportunities found in the UES Garden in other places.

Over the summer I met with Mrs. Buss.  She was a great help and gave me tips and pointed out areas of my plan that needed more information or a different approach.  I had never been more excited about the project!  Later I was able to talk to Toni Farmer, the Live Civilly Garden Coordinator.  She worked with me to offer suggestions and ideas.  As I have had only limited experience with gardening, I needed someone like Mrs. Farmer to give me guidance.  I took many of her ideas and worked them into my garden plan, such as where to send the produce.

It was during this time that I confirmed a very generous donation from Flagg’s Garden Center, who agreed to give me soil and soil amendment.  Because of their amazing gift, I saved hundreds of dollars on the construction of the garden beds.  Soon after the start of the school year, Mr. Seibel turned the Interact project into The MHS Garden Club.  Now more people would have the chance to become directly involved!

Mrs. Farmer and I finalized everything needed for the build of the beds and set a date for construction.  On the day of construction we experienced a large turnout of volunteers.  Without the volunteers we would not have been able to accomplish the establishment of 6 raised beds.

Right now lettuce seedlings are being grown in the garden beds.  Garden Club members and I have decided that we will consider where to send the produce when we see how the lettuce grows in the coming months.  I would love for the food to be sent to local food pantries through Live Civilly in the future.

I want to publicly thank all who helped with the MHS Garden Build including: Flagg’s Garden Center; the Home Depot; Moorestown High School; The MHS Interact Club; my family; the volunteers who helped to build; Mrs. Farmer and Live Civilly, and my club advisor, Ms. Booth.  I hope more students will become involved, continue this garden and in turn benefit the community.