By Jason Emerson
Before the end of 2018, there may be a community garden at the Fenner Fields complex on Fenner Street — a garden offering fruits and vegetables and maybe even a fiber crop from alpacas. The garden is a project created by students in the Cazenovia High School Agriculture Program, one they not only created but are funding through grants.
The planned community garden would be on one acre of land within the Sean M. Googin Athletic Complex, and would be used as a hands-on tool for agriculture students in the high school, Trevor O’Herien Ag Club president, told the Cazenovia Board of Education during a recent presentation. The garden would also benefit the local community by sharing its produce and even teaching community members how to garden, he said.
“Our class decided to create the community garden because we want to help the community by learning how to produce fresh fruits and vegetables that can be donated, and to expand our hands-on agricultural experiences,” said O’Herien and Samantha Morris, also a club member.
“I believe it is a great project and am proud of what the students have accomplished so far,” said Mandi Millen, CHS agriculture program advisor. “There is a disconnect with many about what agriculture means, how our food is produced and how our food gets to the grocery store. Projects like this help to educate where our food comes from, how important agriculture is and how we can take an active part in it.”
The students in the high school’s two agriculture classes will build, plant, maintain and harvest the garden as part of their class. They hope to break ground and build the garden fence this spring, with seed planting soon to follow, said O’Herien and Morris
The class currently has $3,000 in funding to spend on the project — grant money they received through the New York State School-Based Agricultural Education Incentive Program. The students applied for the grant themselves — a grant for $9,000, of which they were awarded $3,000 — which they said took a lot of time and research to complete and was a valuable educational experience. They plan to apply for more grants to increase the project’s funding, they said.
“You guys did a great job getting money from the grant,” said BOE President Jan Woodworth during the students’ presentation to the board. “I am really impressed.”
Superintendent Matt Reilly agreed. “This is a great start,” he said. “I love the ambition of seeking more grants; there is more money out there.” Reilly also passed on to the class information for a $25,000 grant application that would be applicable to their project.
O’Herien said the class has also reached out to community members for project assistance — people with gardening and farming equipment that may be willing to help the class as needed.
Millen said the owners of Cazenovia Equipment have offered to participate in the project by loaning equipment to the students and showing them how to operate it.
“Our class is very proud of the work we’ve done so far with the garden, and hopefully the work we can do with and for the community,” the students said.