The Kiwanis Clubs of Litchfield and Buckeye are working with West Valley students in the clubs’ youth Service Leadership Programs to nurture a community garden that benefits students as well the hungry.
More than 200 students from elementary through high school are involved in the leadership programs, Litchfield Kiwanis President Erica Stephens said, noting that many of them have been working since April to get the garden going at Hickman’s Family Farm, 6515 S. Jackrabbit Trail in Buckeye.
“This all started from a desire of a young teenager who lives in Buckeye. He wanted to make a difference before he graduated in May from high school. I would say he succeeded, and Kiwanis was more than happy to spearhead this project with him,” Ms. Stephens said. “We wanted to teach the youth how to grow their own food, as well as teach them how to be leaders in the community in which they live and serve. We wanted to also bridge the community in on this opportunity as well,” Ms. Stephens said.
When the Hickman family heard about the project, they jumped at the chance to participate, donating the space, fertilizer, seeds and water for the garden.
Scroll through the carousel of submitted photos below to see how Kiwanis members and students worked together to build the garden and plant their first crops:
Kiwanis Southwest District Governor-elect Tony Gutowski designed the garden’s raised beds, and the two clubs pooled their money to buy materials, then students and club members went to work building the beds and irrigation system shortly after Earth Day, April 22.
“A couple of weeks later, they placed the seeds in the raised beds and they monitor the garden on a rotating basis. Already we are seeing much growth in just a few weeks,” Ms. Stephens said. “We are growing zucchini, squash, melons, lettuce, cucumbers, carrots and more.”
The produce should be ready to harvest in mid-August, she said.
“We look forward to harvesting the garden and donating the proceeds to a local food pantry to give to those in need,” Ms. Stephens said, noting that the fresh produce will likely go to All Faith Food Bank, which serves those in need from its food bank and resource center at 215 S. 5th St. in Buckeye.
Ms. Stephens said Hickman’s Family Farms’ participation in the project is critical to its success.
“The key component in doing a project of this magnitude is having a location,” she said, noting that once the gardeners master the raised beds, Hickman’s will provide a quarter-acre so the garden can expand and provide even more produce for the community.
“This will afford us to teach more kids the importance of growing their own food. We feel that in this climate of constant change our youth will need to understand sustainability,” Ms. Stephens said. “What other way than with a garden that they built by hand?”
For more information and to follow the community garden’s progress, follow @Kiwanislitchfield and @BuckeyeKiwanis on Facebook.