Students plant first vegetables, flowers in Cayce community garden

Fourth graders from C.A. Taylor Elementary plant flowers in a new community garden in Cayce. (photo by Rachel Ham)

Fourth-graders from C.A. Taylor Elementary School plant flowers in a new community garden in Cayce. (photo by Rachel Ham)

A new community garden in Cayce was bursting green with seedlings and flowers by mid-morning on Wednesday. The greenery was planted by children from Davis Early Childhood Center for Technology and C.A. Taylor Elementary School. They and their families, along with others from the surrounding community, will be able to reap the yield from garden in just a matter of weeks.

The Julius Felder Community Garden is made possible by the Julius Felder Coalition for Change — a local community service organization — the city of Cayce and Healthy South Carolina Initiative. The Healthy South Carolina Initiative is a statewide project funded through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Community Transformation Grant Program. Funding is provided to local organizations, school districts and others to promote and implement healthy living projects.

The city of Cayce and Julius Felder Coalition were able to obtain grant funding to launch the community garden and increase residents’ access to fresh food. Pamela Sulton, treasurer of the Julius Felder Coalition, said learning of the high obesity rates in the region prompted the organization to find a way to make a measurable difference.

The garden on Allen Street is one of five scattered around the state that received funding from Healthy South Carolina Initiative. The city also is working to get extra grant monies to add signage at the Riverwalk.

“I think this will be very beneficial to the community,” said Cayce Mayor Pro Tem Skip Jenkins.

Kindergarteners from Carla Adams’ 5K class at Davis Early Childhood Center for Technology and Kim Harris’ fourth-grade class at Taylor Elementary were invited to put on their gardening gloves to plant seedlings, seeds and a few flowers. Wednesday’s planting tied in with things the students had just learned in class.

Before her kids got started digging in the dirt, Adams reminded them what they’d been taught about plant identification and the parts of a plant. The classes were also visited earlier in the week by Helen Rivers, president of the Lexington County Master Gardeners, who gave them a lesson on what to do when they arrive at the garden.

Kindergarten students from Davis Early Childhood Center for Technology also got their hands dirty planting seeds. (photo by Rachel Ham)

Kindergarten students from Davis Early Childhood Center for Technology also got their hands dirty planting seeds. (photo by Rachel Ham)

The students planted two boxes with lettuce, radishes and flowers before boarding their bus back to school. Parents, School Improvement Council members and PTO members will help the students care for the plots until it’s time to harvest. Sulton said it will be up to 30 days until the plants are mature.

“This is very educational and something the kids will remember,” Jenkins said.

Rivers also helped Julius Felder Coalition members plan out the garden for maximum effectiveness.

Several groups and churches already have claimed a box to care for, but six of the 18 are still up for grabs. Coalition members want to grow zucchini and an herb garden and add more boxes for future plantings.

“We’ve had great response from the community,” Sulton said.

“My goal is for everyone to take a part of it,” said Yvonne Smith, secretary of the Julius Felder Coalition and Felder’s granddaughter.

Many already have contributed to the garden project in one way or another. Boy Scout Troop 507 built the fence around the lots, the city of West Columbia donated mulch, the city of Cayce is assisting with irrigation and Riverbanks Zoo is also a sponsor. Youth from SC Youth ChalleNGe Acadey, a program through the South Carolina National Guard for at-risk teens, came and donated time to fill the boxes with mulch.

The Julius Felder Coalition will sell a percentage of vegetables at the S.C. State Farmer’s Market and put proceeds back into the garden to keep it going after the grant funding has been used.

To reserve a box at the Julius Felder Community Garden, attend the Julius Felder Coalition meeting at 6 p.m. Tuesday at New Life Baptist Church on Julius Felder Street or call Smith at (803) 240-6850.