City, school and neighborhood groups collaborate for garden

By Denise Dick


Taft Elementary School fourth-grade twins Ja’Liya and Ja’Mya Jackson, 11, like getting their hands dirty.

They are members of Taft Grows Green, the 4-H club formed at the school last fall. Members planted herbs, radishes, tomatoes and other vegetables Wednesday in a vacant lot across the street from the school.

Ja’Liya said she plans to eat the veggies they grow in the garden, and Mark Revere, 10, a fourth-grader, said he looks forward to sampling the parsley on some potatoes.

“I had that once at Golden Corral,” he explained.

Laurie McEwan, a fourth-grade teacher, volunteered to be the 4-H club adviser when city Councilman John R. Swierz, D-7th, approached the city about starting a club and planting a garden.

“It’s the only 4-H club in the city school system,” Swierz said.

He hopes it grows and becomes a community garden. The effort involves the city and school, Mahoning County’s Ohio State University Extension Office, the Taft School Area Block Watch and the Seventh Ward Citizens Coalition.

McEwan, who lives in North Lima, approached South Range High School, where many students are 4-H members, and was connected with junior Christian Moore. Christian is working with the city club and the garden as his senior project.

He and Jason Baker from OSU Extension showed the students how to prepare the soil, the proper depth for planting and the right way to use gardening tools.

McEwan said that before the planting could begin, students had to ensure the soil was safe. They took soil samples and sent them for testing. The tests showed no problems.

Club president Taylor Lofton and vice president Destiny Gregory, both 11 and in fifth grade, lead the club meetings in the Pledge of Allegiance and the 4-H Pledge at each meeting, which occurs after school twice monthly.

“The students love it,” McEwan said.

Members were selected from students who live close to the school because the garden must be watered and maintained through the summer.

Eleven students belong to the club, and McEwan hopes more get involved next year.

“We want to enter some things in the Canfield Fair, but that will probably have to wait until next year,” the teacher said.

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