School Students Grow Vegetables for Area Needy Families

By Anthony Makara, Fairfax Master Gardener
Students from the W.T. Woodson High School Environmental Club have been growing fresh vegetables in their school garden to help Fairfax County families experiencing food insecurity. This began when the Urban Agricultural Workgroup of the Fairfax Food Council approached Woodson and asked if their Environmental Club students would be interested in starting a vegetable garden at the school. This was in answer to the spike in demand for food as a result of the COVID pandemic. Those who regularly donated food, including restaurants and farmers, have been struggling, and thus the need for fresh produce became greater.

Tony Makara and Woodson advison Lauren Kinne guide students

Adria Bordas, Senior Extension Agent and a member the Fairfax Food Council, had already been advocating for ways that the Fairfax Master Gardeners Association could assist with school and faith-based community gardens. This initiative took root several seasons ago with the on-site Master Gardener assistance given to several public community gardens. Adria visualized arrangements where a dedicated Master Gardener could be assigned as a dedicated mentor to each such endeavor, and several initiatives have taken shape.

At Woodson HS, I accepted this responsibility and met with faculty mentors to assess the present status and how assistance could best be provided. In one of the early meetings with the student gardeners, I gave a presentation on various garden principles such as planning for the size of the garden, what to plant each month, succession planting, soil preparation and other important