Here is a link to a Toledo Blade article on youth
doing greenhouse work with Toledo GROWs:
3 youths grow into gardeners
Program with cash crunch produces plenty of
The community gardening program at the Toledo
Botanical Garden was running low on cash this year, but because of the help of
three local youngsters, the program has plenty of green to give away.
Michael Szuberla, head of the Toledo GROWS community gardening program, has
worked at a greenhouse with the three students almost every weekend since March.
The group grew more than 3,000 plants and learned about different cultures
through diverse agricultural traditions and foods.
"It's a great way to reach kids on a whole bunch of levels at once," Mr.
Szuberla said. "When kids grow things themselves, they're much more
The group sold some of its flowers, vegetables, and herbs last week at the
annual Toledo Botanical Garden plant sale. Most of the greenhouse-grown goods
were donated Monday to 40 area community gardens.
The Toledo GROWS program believes that community gardens beautify the city
and promote good nutrition and a sense of civic duty. Schools and churches
oversee some of the community gardens, while others are neighborhood projects.
Many of the gardens donate some of their produce to soup kitchens in the area.
In past years, Toledo GROWS has bought plants to give to community gardeners,
but recent budget cuts put a pinch on the program. Having students help grow
plants provided a cheaper alternative.
"This was a way to keep our services going and offer additional education to
kids," Mr. Szuberla said.
One of Mr. Szuberla's helpers, Keon Pearson, has experience working on a
community garden in his neighborhood. The 11-year-old, who attends Toledo's
Nathan Hale Elementary School, said he had a great time working with Mr.
"I learned about pesticide, fungicide, and, um, there's one other one. I keep
wanting to say homicide, but I know that's not right," he said. "Herbicide!
Keon and his younger brother, Jalen Stewart, grew dozens of plant varieties
with Mr. Szuberla at the Frank Dick Natural Science Technology Center. The
building, which is next to the botanical garden, is operated by Toledo Public
Schools. Dominique Kassa, a student at Toledo's Grove Patterson Academy, also
"It's fun to get into the dirt and just play around," Dominique said.
Mr. Szuberla said he tries to incorporate academic subjects in their work at
the greenhouse. For example, the group discussed how exploration throughout
history was caused by the desire for different spices. They dealt with chemistry
by learning about the nutrients in soil.
The students didn't just learn about earth; they sampled the world. They grew
foreign crops like Thai basil, then tasted traditional foods from India,
Ethiopia, Korea, and Japan.
"I tried squid, " Keon said. "Dominique was too scared to try it."
On other trips, the students met with Marvin Duren, a successful Waffle House
operator who recently started an organic gardening business, shared their
knowledge with students at Glenwood Elementary School in Toledo, and worked at
Bench Farms in Curtice.
Many of the activities were paid for by a $900 grant from the Konnecting
Northwest Ohio Through Service initiative at Bowling Green State University. Mr.
Szuberla said he hopes to receive more grants so he can continue working closely
with more local youths.
"We're trying to find an effective way to reach kids," Mr. Szuberla said.
"We're hoping these kids will be leaders and show their peers that gardening can
be fun and can do good things."