Green thumb: Millbridge hosts garden camp

Published 12:00 am Thursday, June 30, 2016

By Rebecca Rider

MILLBRIDGE — The discovery garden at Millbridge Elementary School is immaculate. For a week in June, twenty students spent their days weeding, watering and harvesting – and the care shows. Tomatoes are flourishing and slowly working their way towards ripeness, and the wide leaves of a squash plant hide open yellow flowers.

Assistant Principal Angela Lingle-Linder said the school hosts its Discovery Garden Camp a few times a summer, teaching practical skills and healthy eating.

“We try to teach the child to eat healthy, to be healthy, so when they grow up they can do it on their own,” Lingle-Linder said.

Current and former Millbridge students spend the week in the school’s outdoor classroom, and digging their hands into the dirt of the discovery garden. They weed, harvest, work on crafts and learn recipes for healthy snacks.

The surprise on students’ faces when they dip into homemade salsa or bite into a zucchini stick is Lingle-Linder’s favorite part of the camp.

“They’re like, ‘Oh my gosh, I made this, and it’s good.’ They’re surprised healthy food is good,” she said.

Garden camp is one way that Millbridge maintains its discovery garden during the summer. When it’s weeded and pruned, the raised beds offer a variety of produce that makes its way into the home of needy families in the area, Lingle-Linder said.

The camp, now in its seventh year, has been sponsored by various organizations over its lifetime. This year, it was sponsored by the Rowan County Farm Bureau. But there’s lots of community involvement. Throughout the week, speakers come from the Rowan County Cooperative Extension, Rowan-Salisbury Schools’ food services, the Rowan County Health Department and Master Gardeners.

And a week among the radishes, squash and budding grape vines is sure to turn any child into an aspiring green thumb.

“It’s fun,” Allyson Hedrick, a rising sixth-grader, said. “It’s kind of like a new experience for me. I’ve never really done this before.”

But it’s a week of fun, sun and green things that keeps kids coming back – even those who left the halls of Millbridge years ago.

Rachel Webster is a rising eighth-grader, but she’s been coming to garden camp since the fourth grade, and wasn’t about to let a little thing like middle school stop her.

And there’s always something new. One year, she recalls, they painted T-shirts using fruits and vegetable.

“I love garden camp,” she said, “I just keep coming back every year.”

Contact reporter Rebecca Rider at 704-797-4264.