A six-week crash course in gardening at the Waltham Fields Community Farm has given 10 local children green thumbs.
At the after-school program, Children’s Learning Garden, sponsored by the Parks and Recreation Department, children in first through fourth grade learned gardening basics, from planting to harvesting.
Yesterday on the last day of the program, children gathered around a wooden fence that protected a garden in the middle of the seven-acre Beaver Street farm.
“I did learn how to plant tomatoes,” said 6-year-old Harrison Massing. “I learned what pea tendrils taste like. Specifically, they taste like peas.”
Frederick Madsen, 6, said the most important thing he learned was how to care for living things.
“I learned that you have to take care of plants because if you don’t they might die,” he said. “I probably want to be a gardener (when I grow up).”
Nine-year-old Taylor Carrafiello also learned the basics in gardening.
“I learned how important it is to take care of plants,” said Carrafiello. “You have to water them every day.”
Farm executive director Meg Coward said the Children’s Learning Garden serves several purposes for the farm’s community.
“We wanted a way to get little kids involved with the farm,” she said. “We want to help them understand where their food comes from, but also get them excited about fruits and vegetables.”
Coward said the program has been running during the summer for 10 years, but this year teamed with the Parks and Recreation Department to hold the program in the spring.
“It’s a wonderful program,” she said. “They do everything the farmers would do but on their own scale. They plant seeds, they weed the gardens and they harvest.”
Coward said the program is an extension of the volunteer work done on the farm.
“A big part of our work is to allow people to connect to the farm,” she said. “We just want people to understand where their food comes from and build awareness for all issues involved in growing food locally.”
The farm sponsors several volunteer programs in which people can spend time working side-by-side with farmers. Last year they had 1,200 volunteers take part in a variety of volunteer efforts, Coward said.
“Our farm is really set up so we can include volunteers into the work of the farm,” she said. “It allows us to run the farm in such a way that we can donate so much to hunger relief, but also it’s a way for people learn in a hands-on way.”
Coward said Waltham Fields Community Farm is in its 13th season of operation and is Waltham’s last farm in city limits.
“We started as a hunger relief operation. Initially the idea was volunteers work together to grow fresh produce for people in need,” she said. “We’ve kind of developed from that initial beginning.”
The farm grows $30,000 worth of produce each year for hunger relief efforts, many of which are needed in Waltham.
Coward said parents interested in signing up their children for the summer Children’s Learning Garden session should contact Kim Scott at the city’s Parks and Recreation Department at 781-314-3480. The program starts near the beginning of July.
Jeff Gilbride can be reached at 781-398-8005 or at firstname.lastname@example.org