Garden provides another learning opportunity for Lyman agriculture students

By Melanie Savage - Staff Writer
Lebanon - posted Tue., Jun. 18, 2013
Lyman Memorial High School student Jake Berentsen tastes one of the season's first strawberries. Photos by Melanie Savage.
Lyman Memorial High School student Jake Berentsen tastes one of the season's first strawberries. Photos by Melanie Savage.

Add a large fruit/vegetable garden to the list of new initiatives introduced under the direction of agriculture teacher Geoffrey Picard at Lyman Memorial High School.

Actually, it was Picard and fellow teacher Megan Grogan who applied for a Prides Corner Farms grant that partially funded the new garden. Prides Corner supplied $1,500, and another $9,600 was provided via a grant from the Savings Institute Foundation. Together, the grants went toward the purchase of a new rototiller, a zero-turn lawnmower, fencing, crushed stone, materials for the construction of raised beds, and a new ebb and flow system for irrigation in the school’s greenhouse.

“In April, we got to work,” said Picard.

Grogan got seeds started in the greenhouse. “I had two greenhouse classes that were involved,” she said. Picard got his large equipment class started on site preparation.

“The period two class put in the most effort,” said graduating senior Ajay Gonnelli. “Especially [fellow senior] Karl Rechlin. He knows what he’s doing. He’s a good man.”

Work involved moving tractors and other machinery away from a lot behind the school greenhouse. “This was just dirt right here,” said Gonnelli, indicating the newly-completed garden. Nearly two months of daily work involved leveling the site, bringing in crushed stone, setting fence posts and putting up fencing, building raised beds and installing six pallets of soil donated by Scotts. “It was a lot of work,” said Gonnelli. But the result is a neat, extensive garden hosting squash, cucumbers, herbs, potatoes, blueberries, raspberries, strawberries and a variety of other plants. As of June 17, the garden was already producing harvestable produce.

Student Jake Berentsen picked a ripe strawberry and proclaimed it delicious. Lyman senior Kate Nichols pulled several cucumbers off of the vine. “We’ll bring them inside and weigh them,” said Picard. The students will keep track of the garden’s production this year, including noting the difference between different growing methods. The garden utilizes two different methods for growing strawberries, for example, and two methods for growing cucumbers. “These are our strawberry pyramids,” said Picard, indicating concentric, stacked circles of growing strawberry plants. “We’re also growing hanging strawberries,” said Picard.

“This is kind of a test year for the garden to see how much we grow,” added Picard. The ultimate goal would be to produce enough to establish a presence at the local farmers’ market. “That would be a good opportunity to have the kids learn about marketing skills,” said Picard.

In the meantime, the garden has already provided plenty of opportunities for learning. “I would say it’s been pretty rewarding,” said Gonnelli. “We all worked really hard. It teaches everyone that if we work hard, if we all work together, we can really accomplish something.”

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