When Shayna Smith, DCS Food Service Director, and Barbara Lonardi, Superintendent of New Visions Youth Development Center, first began discussing the possibility of a garden, they both thought it was a pipe dream. The facility has only one small courtyard of grass and that is where the students recreate. Then, thanks to Shayna, along comes Jason Patterson from Community Food Advocates with a vision that gardens can be virtually anywhere. The dream became a reality. Instead of using the grass in the courtyard, Jason suggested using raised bed gardens along the sidewalk. This is where Cyndi Chester, the science teacher at New Visions, comes into play. She was able to provide the wood and compost for the gardens; make the beds and secure the plants thanks to a generous donation from Benny Batts, manager at Robertson-Cheatham Farmers Co-op in Ashland City, TN.
Within weeks, the team all worked together to get the gardens built and planted. The garden is up and growing thanks to Mrs. Chester and her students that care for it. In order to further get the girls interested in the garden, Jason Patterson brought in Chef Batts to make homemade pizzas with the girls using only fresh vegetables from the local farmer’s market. The girls ended up being covered in flour and they were surprised how great a natural vegetable pizza could taste. The students are clamoring for more cooking lessons!
Ms. Lonardi says, “I am thrilled with the joint effort between the Community Food Advocates representative; Jason Patterson, our Science teacher; Cyndi Chester and the students of New Visions. This is our first sustainable garden/raised bed attempt and it is a wonderful success. The plants are growing, the students are excited, and the learning opportunities are many. We all look forward to eating our first fresh tomato!”