By Katina Caraganis
TOWNSEND — What started off as a Girl Scout project has turned into a well-developed, sustainable project at North Middlesex Regional High School.
In January 2009, Stephanie Greene, who was a senior, and Ray Kane, a teacher at the high school, put together a project for her Girl Scout Gold Award called the giving garden.
She and a group of students worked to plant a small plot of land in the front courtyard at North Middlesex. The project eventually would stall before being taken over by a group of students in 2010.
They planted squash and tomatoes to revive the garden. Every month, the group would plant more and more, and they eventually expanded into a larger courtyard within the interior of the school.
Stumps were uprooted, weeds were pulled, raised beds were built and seeds continued to be planted.
Everything that was grown was donated to the Pepperell Aid from Community to Home in Pepperell.
The garden transformed into a community garden, and since 2010, it has donated more than 318 pounds of food to PACH.
The project, which surpassed Kane’s initial goal of growing 50 pounds, has also grown in numbers, he said last Friday as he stood in the garden. More than 50 people work to maintain it, he said.
His students are as excited about the progress as he is.
“Anything is possible. This place was a disaster when we first came in here,” Colleen Schroth, a junior from Townsend, said. “Everywhere you looked, something needed to be done. Now we can look back at everything we’ve accomplished and know we did a good thing.”
There’s no question the garden will continue on for years to come, the group said Friday as they took breaks from tending to their crops.
Junior Jessica DiLorenzo, of Ashby, said, “We know what went right and wrong. This garden was so great this year and we grew so much, so I don’t know how we’ll beat it next year, but I know we will.”
The garden was not only a chance for the students of the North Middlesex community to come together, but it was a chance for them to interact with the outside community through their donations to PACH.
Casey Libonte, one of four student coordinators, said, “This has been such a great way for us to bring the community together and show everyone what we’ve been doing.” She handles the responsibility of bringing the donations to Pepperell, and she said the reaction she gets from people there is priceless.
“They always seem to have an entire table of our produce ready to go for families,” she said. “We wanted to keep this project as community based as possible. With so many people not being able to afford healthy food, this is something small we can do to help.”
Kane said that people who are down on their luck usually buy the cheapest food they can get at the grocery store, which is usually not the healthiest.
“It’s simple economics really,” he said. “We’re trying to give people healthy options that don’t normally have those options.”