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Gardens of Youth

Area youths gain knowledge, money growing vegetables

August 3, 2008
By RICHARD NILSEN, The Leader-Herald

A partnership between Cornell Cooperative Extension and Golub Corp. is helping area youths learn about the personal and financial rewards of growing vegetables.

Under the program, which began this year, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Fulton and Montgomery Counties helps area youths grow vegetables for Golub's Price Chopper supermarkets. The seeds are provided by Golub, and each youth may sell up to $500 worth of vegetables per year back to the stores.

"The Golub program is one of long standing," said Crystal Stewart, a horticulturist for Cornell Cooperative Extension of Fulton and Montgomery Counties. "4-H groups in the other counties have been working with it for years. I was approached by the different counties to participate and found a lot of the kids were interested."

Article Photos

The Leader-Herald/Richard Nilsen

Madison Frasier, 12, of Johnstown picks cherry tomatoes from her garden. Below, Ben Chapin weeds a garden outside Johnson Hall in Johnstown.

Stewart came to the area before 2007 from South Dakota to visit her brother-in-law, and said she wanted to move here because the area is beautiful. The job as horticulturist with Cornell gave her that opportunity. She started working at the job in October.

She was able to get a group of youths from the Tryon Boys School involved in the program through recreation leader Don Ecker. She said the raised-bed gardens at Tryon were great.

"No other counties had tried to work with a facility like Tryon in the program," Stewart said. "It's been exciting."

Besides the Tryon participants, Stewart said about 30 youths in Fulton and Montgomery counties have taken part in the program, which open to 4-H members and other youths.

Children in the program receive seeds for 10 different vegetables. Each youth may choose up to four vegetables to plant.

"They would rather have a few vegetables grown well rather than many grown poorly," Stewart said. "[Golub] doesn't want the kids to get overstretched."

She said cucumbers, tomatoes, squash and zucchini are among the choices.

Ashleigh Myers of Sharon Springs, 15, has been participating in the program and said it is turning out well.

"I'm growing peas," Myers said. "They aren't ready yet, but they are coming along pretty good."

Myers said she likes gardening, and her two brothers, Chad and Kyle, are growing tomatoes in the program. She said her brothers were experimenting with putting black plastic around the plants to see if they will grow better.

"The program is new to us, but they used to have it when my dad was a kid," she said.

Linda Chapin's three sons, Ben, 17, Ian, 16 and Lucas, 14, are all involved in the program. Ben is a tour guide at Johnson Hall and helps with the garden there. He is growing squash to sell to Price Chopper.

"It's been an excellent year for squash," Chapin said. "I'll use the money I make for extra things I need this winter."

"This is our first year with the program," Linda Chapin said. "We have 24 tomato plants in our family garden, which is about 3,000 square feet, and then we have a special market garden in a hay field that is for squash."

Her son Lucas said growing vegetables seemed like an easy way to make some money.

"I'll save most of it," he said. "It's going along nicely. Some of the vegetables are almost ready to pick."

Linda Chapin said the first few yellow tomatoes were so delicious they've eaten them at the dinner table already.

"We've just gotten five or so a day for the table, but pretty soon they will explode and then they'll go off to market."

Stewart said the youths receive whatever the market price is for the vegetables, so they learn about commodities, marketing, and supply and demand

Anita Paley, the 4-H educator in Schenectady County and the liaison with Golub, said the program has a rich history and is rewarding to its participants.

"In 1964, William Golub decided he wanted to offer youth the opportunity to understand and explore the relationship between farmers who grow produce and businesses which purchase the produce," Paley said. "He was familiar with the 4-H programs and the 'learn by doing' style of learning, and he approached Schenectady County 4-H to be a partner in this endeavor."

Paley said that over 44 years, Golub has supplied participants with seeds, tomato plants, marketing supplies and marketing training to support 4-H youths. Cooperative Extension 4-H staff provide program structure, master gardeners for training and garden visits, and training for adult volunteers. The program has expanded from Schenectady County to Albany, Fulton, Montgomery, Rensselaer and Schoharie County Cooperative Extension 4-H clubs. Schenectady has extended the invitation to all Schenectady County youths in kindergarten through grade 12.

"Schenectady County 4-H has been the key contact coordinating efforts between the five Cooperative Extension offices and Golub," Paley said.

Currently, 31 youths are enrolled in the Schenectady program and 158 all five counties. The youths are supported by 41 trained adults, Paley said. In the 44 years of the program's existence, more than 1,500 youths in Schenectady County have used the program and at least 5,500 have participated in all five counties, she said.

Richard Nilsen is a general assignment reporter and can be reached at



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