IDEA students harvest healthy vegetables, learn about nutrition

12 students join Garden Club at IDEA Monterrey Park

SAN ANTONIO – An idea that was planted in the classroom has sprouted into an outdoor vegetable garden at IDEA Monterrey Park.

A group of students at the school joined an after-school gardening club.

The students tend to the garden, and little did they realize what an experience it would be.

"I am learning how they grow and how they taste," Carlos Navarro, a sixth-grader, said.

On Tuesday, the students showed off the the fruits of their labor. They displayed lettuce, beets and other vegetables they had harvested, and tasted them.

"You do the hard work and it comes out pretty good," Alexa Mendez, a sixth-grader, said.

The taste test was quite a unique experience for the young gardeners.

"I had a couple of kids come up to me and say, 'That is the first time I ever tasted a beet, and I liked it,' regional farm director Cecile Parrish said. "And I was, like, 'Really? That's great!"

This is Parrish's first year undertaking a project such as this.

"This experience has been really incredible," said Parrish, who graduated from Warren Wilson College in North Carolina.

The garden that sits next to the school is only part of the project.

Not far from the school sits 1.5 acres of land that Parrish and her club are working in order to one day supply all the local IDEA Public Schools cafeterias with fresh vegetables. 

"We are working on making this as viable of a production as possible," Parrish said.

She admits the project has had its challenges. There are different types of soils to contend with and, of course, the South Texas weather. One morning, there will be a freeze. The next day, there will be gusty winds, followed by summery temperatures the next day.

There is a similar project underway in the Rio Grande Valley, and it has supplied 6,500 pounds of fresh vegetables to 19 IDEA Public Schools in that region.

Supplying food and teaching students how to harvest their own food has already been a worthwhile project for Parrish, especially when she has students hungry for knowledge.

"Having students run up to me and kind of beg for knowledge about what I am doing out here, and knowing how valuable what I am sharing is, it helps me sleep well at night," Parrish said.

About the Author:

David Sears, a native San Antonian, has been at KSAT for more than 20 years.