Buffalo Ridge garden produces bountiful harvest
By Kathy Fallert; photos courtesy of Jen Smoldt
The Buffalo Ridge Elementary (BRE) garden boxes had been sitting empty and overgrown with weeds for about a year when parent Jen Smoldt inquired about being a classroom garden volunteer for her daughter’s third grade class last year. Smoldt had previously been a garden volunteer a couple years prior when the gardens were active. This lead to Smoldt becoming the garden coordinator for the school and to BRE’s first ever farmers market on September 9 and 10.
Smoldt said, “I organized a donation drive last spring and asked for volunteers. A core group of volunteers stepped forward to help with the planting and maintain the gardens over the summer. As the new school year approached, we had a thriving garden and students have enjoyed a bountiful harvest bar in the cafeteria complete with zucchini, tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, green beans, and even sweet corn!”
Because the garden needs funding to survive, Smoldt and the other volunteers and some student members formed an official garden club.
Smoldt remarked, “The farmers market was our first fundraiser event to raise money for a drip system so we have water over the summers, vole and rabbit control, and an outdoor classroom, currently in the building process. I pitched the farmers market idea to the Buffalo Ridge Education Alliance co-presidents Lisa Recine and Valerie Miller, who have really embraced and supported the garden revitalization and the Garden Club formation.”
The BRE community also donated homemade and store bought goods to be sold at the market. Volunteers donated everything from homemade salsa, chicken and duck eggs, home-made jams, breads, muffins, sunflowers, and potted plants. BRE Principal Veit contributed a batch of blue ribbon-worthy zucchini and tomatoes to boot.
More than $750 was raised over two days. The money will be used for plants, basic supplies like soil and compost, and also for mesh and fencing to provide pest control. The outdoor classroom, which will have benches and a stadium view of the gardens, is designed to allow teachers to use the garden area as a life lab for students learning about life cycles, photosynthesis, or other science subjects.
Smoldt summarized, “Our first farmers market was a huge success, not just in terms of fundraising, but BRE community support and camaraderie. You can really feel the family spirit at BRE with this type of event – an absolute outpouring of volunteers, students, parents, grandparents, administrators, and teachers alike!”