Greetings from Abingdon, VA!  Deni here, reporting on a fantastic Lettuce Project!

Appalachian Sustainable Development’s Grow Your Own program is helping 40 participant gardens this year.  Some are community gardens supporting numerous families while some are small or large backyard gardens.  Each of the participating gardeners receive excellent quantity vegetable transplants such as broccoli, cabbage, kale, tomatoes, peppers and LETTUCE.  It takes a village to run this program; and this year, our village is made up of students!  Students of varying ages and abilities; each with an important role to play!

This week, participants came to Ecumenical Faith in Action Food Pantry Demonstration Garden for the Brassicas, Onions and Potato workshop.  They walked away with trays filled with gorgeous plants including Lettuce.  In addition, we harvested 16 pecks of lettuce to give to the food pantry participants.  So, let’s take a look at all this lettuce and the kids who made it grow.

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Lettuce seeds were sown by students at Abingdon High School (AHS) Special Education program back in February. Remember all that snow?  Seedling trays were taken to VA Highlands Community College Greenhouse were college students in the Horticulture program cared for them; watering and making sure light levels and temperatures were just right for optimal growth.  AHS students visited their seedling often while helping to plant other seedlings, but helped the lettuce along by thinning plants down to one per cell.

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In March, these seedlings were taken to the demonstration garden and planted in the hoop house.   They placed hoops and floating row cover over their new seedlings as temperatures dropped into the single digits.  Students from Emory and Henry College watered the seedlings twice a week; opening hoop house side panels as temperatures warmed and cooled.  AHS students returned in Early April to weed their lettuce crop and again this week to harvest the most gorgeous heads of colorful lettuce.  16 pecks of lettuce were cut, double washed and packed into bags.  Proudly, they delivered their harvest to the Food Pantry, into the arms of Larry Bays, executive director, who promised the kids that people who really needed the fresh greens would get them.  

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Meanwhile, students from Haynesfield Elementary School in Bristol, TN helped to seed 12 flats of lettuce; an equivalent to 864 cells of lettuce for the majority of our participants. These seedlings were also taken to Virginia Highlands Community College greenhouse and cared for by students there.  Here are some of the elementary students comments:

“I enjoyed planting seeds.  Mrs. Deni said they need water and space to grow.  I hope they are growing well.  I hope we can do something like this again.”   – Addison

“Have you ever planted lettuce?  If not you might want to because it’s really fun!  First, you take your flats and put soil in each one.  Next, you take your finger and lightly press the soil.  After that, get a handful of seeds and put one or two in each section.  Lastly, you watch your seeds grow!  Make sure they get lots of sunlight and plenty of water.” – Reese

“We planted some different seeds for our garden at school.  Mrs. Deni split us into different groups to plant different things.  I planted Red Sails Lettuce.  I liked this activity because I like gardening and watching things grow…..and getting messy!  I hope the seeds we planted will grow and produce more seeds so more people can plant too!” – Torey

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By working together, we hope this lettuce grows!

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