How does your garden grow?

Published 6:48 am Monday, April 29, 2013

A handful of Ahoskie Elementary School students join with a teacher to place an eggplant in the soil of a community garden adjacent to the SECU office in Ahoskie. Staff Photo by Cal Bryant

A handful of Ahoskie Elementary School students join with a teacher to place an eggplant in the soil of a community garden adjacent to the SECU office in Ahoskie. Staff Photo by Cal Bryant

AHOSKIE – Banks/credit unions are in business to meet the financial needs of the communities they serve.

In the case of one local financial institution, they also aid in meeting the nutritional needs of their members while, at the same time, providing a learning environment for school-age children.

Earlier this week, students at Ahoskie Elementary School took a short walk to the State Employees Credit Union. None of that small army of children ever set foot inside the Credit Union office on this particular day; rather, they braved a cool, overcast afternoon planting a garden.

That garden is the brainchild of SECU Senior Vice President James Eure. He said the idea popped in his head last fall on what to do with a spot of SECU property adjacent to its five-lane drive-thru facility.

“I basically knew what I wanted to do with that one-acre plot of land, put a garden there, but I wanted to see it used as well as an educational tool,” said Eure, who traded in his traditional coat-and-tie on this day for blue jeans and a straw hat. “Then the idea came to me to get our school system involved. I couldn’t think of a better way to help teach our local children about the benefits of a vegetable garden other than plant one. That way they can see and understand how vegetables start out as small seeds or seedling plants and eventually find their way to the dinner table.”

Eure said his educational idea about the garden led him to place a phone call to Stan Warren, Principal of Ahoskie Elementary School.

“We worked out a plan, which not only included the physical aspect of planting seeds, but it evolved to the point where Stan broadened the idea to allow science classes at the school to come out on occasion after the plants begin to sprout and chart their growth cycle,” Eure said.

“When you hear about hands-on learning, this is what we’re talking about,” said Warren. “Our children here at Ahoskie Elementary were able to learn today that the vegetables they see in the grocery store and on their plates at home start here in a garden. We’re taking that lesson plan a few steps further by using the garden as a math teaching tool – measuring the width and length of the rows and the distance between each plant – as well as the later involvement by our science classes to chart the growth of the plants.”

Each class at the school was responsible for planting one row. They went about that task with the bountiful energy expected from young children. They dug in the fertile soil to plant corn, bush beans, potatoes, beets, carrots, eggplant, sweet peppers, green peppers, tomatoes, snaps, okra, cucumbers, squash, cabbage, onions, collards, rutabagas, spinach, and kale.

Prior to undertaking that endeavor, the children heard from Anassou Banna, a Small Farms Management Agent assigned to the Cooperative Extension offices in Bertie, Hertford and Northampton counties. He gave the students tips on how to plant the veggies.

“It was wonderful to have Mr. Banna here,” Warren said. “His expertise was very helpful to the students.”

Eure has solicited 50 members of Ahoskie SECU to pay a one-time $5 fee to create a Community Garden Club. Those members will tend the garden throughout the spring and summer months, and later benefit from the harvest.

“This is a first for a SECU branch anywhere in our state…planting a community garden,” Eure said. “I hope other branches will consider doing the same. It’s a way to give something back to the communities we proudly serve.”


About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

email author More by Cal