Students have long brought cupcakes to class celebrate their birthdays — but by this time next year, kids at Vienna Elementary School will be able to contribute fruits and vegetables they planted, tended and harvested, too.
Community volunteers and local officials broke ground Monday on a new community garden — a partnership between the Town of Vienna, Vienna Elementary School and two local businesses that's the first of its kind in town and across much of the county.
"We're looking forward to it not just being someplace our kids can learn and spend time together, but also something to help unite our community," said parent and gardening coordinator Laura Goyer, who first brought the idea for the project to the town more than a year ago. "The way our food has gone in our country has really made [this] an emergency for all of us. And to teach our children how it should be done it just, it makes me beyond happy."
On Monday, Whole Foods employees, along with interested residents and school volunteers, began to clear the land along the W&OD trail between the Community Center and the school and install raised beds with soil donated by local farmer and business owner Chris Guerre; Mayor Jane Seeman and Principal John Carmichael, still in dress pants and shoes, roared down the site on a 1950s tractor.
Though rain and wind moved part of the kickoff indoors, the weather was" for the ducks, but also for a garden," Carmichael said.
Goyer first thought about the land's possibility as a space for students and residents last year after the town purchased the 9,322 square-foot-plot of land for $33,000.
Along with Parks and Recreation Director Cathy Salgado, she developed a plan that divides the land into two 35 by 75 foot plots: the first cared for by the Vienna Elementary School PTA and the second by the town. The garden will be an educational tool for both the school and the community at-large, Goyer said. In the future, with more space, the town could also consider renting plots of the garden to residents.
The town signed an educational agreement allowing the groups to use the land late last month.
The project also won a $2,000 grant from the Whole Foods WholeKids Foundation late last week, which will be used for tools, soil enhancement, plants and a few trees, Goyer said.A "5%" campaign — which designates 5 percent of one day's Whole Foods sales to a group, project, or cause — will fund a water line and pump for the garden.
On May 5, volunteers will meet again to plant seedlings, including lettuces, tomatoes, corn and spinach, for the garden's first season.
The town also planted a fig tree next to the garden site for its annual Arbor Day Ceremony and planting.
Salgado said the town chose an edible plant this year to help the garden get started.
Over the next year, the school will develop a structured program tying the garden into the curriculum. Eventually, it could do things like create a fourth grade project that ties into study of what was planted in Colonial Williamsburg, or a "salsa garden" that would not only teach students about what goes into salsa but also the measurements needed to make it, Goyer said earlier this year.
For video of the celebration, click the media player above.