The Baker High School FCCLA club maintains a garden behind Durgee Junior High School. The club donates its produce to the Baldwinsville Food Pantry. (Submitted photo)
While some of their classmates may be attending summer school, the members of Baker High School’s FCCLA club are tending to summer squash.
For the second year in a row, the Baker chapter of FCCLA (Family, Career and Community Leaders of America) has maintained a garden behind Durgee Junior High School. The club donates its produce — tomatoes, squash, beans, eggplant and more — to the Baldwinsville Food Pantry.
“They really don’t have access to fresh vegetables, so we’re really their only source for that. Fresh fruits and veggies are expensive,” said Griffin Seifritz, who will be a senior at Baker this year.
The garden is one of many projects FCCLA has pursued. The club, which has about 30 members, has made blankets, origami and surgery caps as part of its community service-oriented mission.
“The idea is a person comes up with a project … and we work as a cohesive unit to get all of the different projects done,” said Seifritz.
“They make all of the contacts, do all of the research,” said Chrissy Rode, family and consumer sciences teacher and FCCLA adviser. “This is a lot of manpower.”
With the help of the school district’s grounds crew, the club prepared a 20-feet by 20-feet garden plot last year. This past spring, the students doubled the size of their garden and built a fence around it.
“A lot of blood, sweat and tears went into that,” said Greg Casey.
While the students have worked hard to make their garden a success, they said they could not have done it without the school grounds crew, who drilled holes for the fence posts and helped spread compost among other tasks.
“They’ve done a lot for us,” Rode said. “The rain barrels magically get filled when it doesn’t rain. They take good care of us.”
Local businesses have lent their assistance to the garden as well. OCCRA donated its compost, which JM Landscape of Baldwinsville transported to the school. Reeves Farms provided seedlings and gave the students a tour of the farm and greenhouses.
“It’s cool to see how they went from a really small farm to such a big business,” said Sophie Simone, who, along with two other club members, works for Reeves Farms.
When the weather turns chilly, the club takes their gardening indoors. With a hydroponic wheel they inherited from a retiring Durgee teacher, the club grows lettuce and microgreens. Seifritz said the club has the capacity to grow 70 heads of lettuce, which they sell to teachers at Baker.
Rode said the students have baked zucchini bread to thank their donors and to give to the pantry. At a club meeting last school year, they whipped up hors d’oeuvres with crackers, fruit, cheese and microgreens — also known as “vegetable confetti,” according to Gardeners Supply Company.
“Their challenge was to create the perfect bite,” she said.
Seifritz noted that FCCLA incorporates many disciplines into its activities: botany, chemistry, food science and the arts. Before enjoying their culinary creations, FCCLA members practiced their food photography skills.
“If you don’t like getting dirty and being around bugs, you can be like a journalist and document,” Seifritz said.
Since many of the club members are seniors, this school year they are focusing on recruitment so the garden can continue.
“It makes you realize you’re capable of more than you think,” said Simone.
Ashley M. Casey is a reporter for The Baldwinsville Messenger and The Eagle Star-Review. She graduated from Le Moyne College in 2012 and previously worked for the Scotsman Press.