by Lisa Tome
Weed now, eat later.
The youths involved in the Perryville Police Department's Outreach Program are learning that hard work now will pay off later with food on the table.
Recently, the program participants learned the fine art of making a compost pile. Perryville's community garden is underway and is adjacent to the program's building.
"We are helping the community with the garden. The kids are learning a lot about resourcefulness," said Haley Hollister, Case Worker for the Outreach Program.
While the garden belongs to the community, the outreach members play a key role in starting and maintaining the raised bed gardens. Hollister explained that there are many lessons to be learned from gardening.
"They learn responsibility and accountability," said Hollister.
Now, the youths are weeding the beds, planting, watering, and fertilizing using the compost pile.
They are learning healthy growing practices.
"We have a good mix of kids doing it. We have elementary, middle, and high. I think they are excited about it," she said. But there are some hazards with gardening. "During the weeding, I get screams from spiders," she said.
The gardens will contain eggplant, cucumbers, strawberries, raspberries, onions, tomatoes, herbs, and peppers. When the harvest is ready, outreach members will learn to cook with what's been grown. "They want to make a full course, from scratch meal," she said.
They are also learning some unexpected and possibly unrecognized life skills, such as teamwork. Outreach program director Jesse Lilly said it's gratifying.
"They not only get fulfilled by helping with a community activity by being in the forefront of the garden, they also get t feel appreciated for the work they do," said Lilly.