Four months ago, high school senior Joey Shook didn’t know that you could grow peppers in Indiana or that a tomato plant produces more than one tomato.
This week, though, he walked through the community garden at Howard County’s south branch library and picked some peppers, tomatoes and cucumbers that he had a hand in growing.
He marveled at the fruits of his labor.
“I never thought this would happen, especially when I was shoveling dirt in buckets and carrying them down to the garden,” he said.
Shook is among a group of students from The Crossing Education Center who have worked in the garden as part of their classroom curriculum.
The community garden was dreamed up earlier this year by library officials and staff at The Crossing. The library used two acres of open space it had at its south branch location to start 40 garden plots.
Fifteen of those plots were rented out to community members who needed space to garden, and the other 25 plots are used by students at The Crossing.
The students plant, maintain and harvest their 25 plots. The ultimate goal is to sell the harvest at the farmer’s market to teach the students about business, too.
“We want to teach them real-life skills, even to the point of creating business plans,” said James Jakus, a teacher at The Crossing.
For right now, much of the harvest is donated to people in the community.
Some is used in other lessons at the school. A group of volunteers recently taught the students how to can vegetables.
“We already sold a jar of pickles,” Jakus said.
The experience has been eye-opening for Shook, who knew nothing about gardens before he started.
“I think I’ve learned more out here in the garden than I have in class,” he said.