LISBON - Helping teach special needs students the skills and enjoyment needed to grow their own food, the Goodness Grows program was presented to the Education Service Center board at its recent meeting.
Kitty Kromer, who leads the program with the help of a teacher's assistant and a parent volunteer, worked with nine students from the high school works program at Leetonia as they learned to grow their own produce. Utilizing some property at the school and at the Common Grounds Church, where the former Mellinger's Greenhouse was located, the students learned the skills for starting a raised bed, planting, composting, harvesting and cleaning up the site in the fall.
Kromer said so many peppers were grown, the students even were given the opportunity to practice following a recipe to turn them into hot pepper jelly and cranberry pepper jelly. Then the students learned how to can the product when they were done. Many of the 120 jars were sold at the church.
Three raised beds were started at the Leetonia schools with the produce shared with the school's cafeteria. Elementary students were also involved in a tasting program, allowing them to try new vegetables or new methods of preparing them.
Much of the program was funded through donations, including wood for the beds, soil and mulch. Kromer also has been able to obtain grant money and matching donations from individuals and the Disney Corp. for tools and a growing table, which will allow seeds to be started earlier this year.
In the future, Kromer said she would like to find a way to create a greenhouse for the students to be able to expand the growing season.
"The work program has been invaluable to these kids because they like contributing to the community," Kromer said. Additionally, she added they are given a chance to interact with people in the area and learn to communicate with them, all of which builds their confidence and self-esteem.