OLS youth harvest

Garden yields food for the body and soul
By dc. tom picciano / SUN contributing writer

Vestal — ”EW!” A surprise greeted Marianna Wright as she helped on harvest day in the garden at Our Lady of Sorrows. There was a worm in the tomato she’d just picked.

“It was gross. I think you just throw them in the woods. That‘s what my grandfather does. He has a garden like this,” she said.

A couple dozen members of the parish’s youth group helped on a hot, sunny day to gather tomatoes, squash, beans and peppers. Most had been with the project for several months, picking rocks, helping to weed and then pulling huge veggies off the vines. Dozens of items of fresh produce were stacked then placed in boxes bound for the Community Hunger Outreach Warehouse (CHOW).

“I’m kind of used to it. Because my grandparents donate all their extra vegetables to CHOW,” Wright said.

“I’m just really happy we could help everybody and have a good time,” added Arianna Young. “I came here in the beginning to pick rocks and dig and stuff. It’s grown a lot since then. So it looks really good.”

“It was an idea of Deacon Dale [Crotsley],” said Joel Montesano. “We’re working towards the National Catholic Youth Conference and doing different activities and fund raising for charities in order to make a difference.”

Montesano said it is hard work.

“Sometimes it is, but work can also be a fun thing,” he said.

Garrett Ilioff was picking green peppers which he felt was the most fun. Michael Young concurred. “Gardening’s fun,” he said. But he noted that his family no longer has a garden. “Used to. Deer eat it all, so we stopped doing it,” he added.

There is no problem with the deer at Our Lady of Sorrows’ garden. Intricate fencing surrounds the 50 by 20 foot plot. A secret deterrent was added every few feet — a combination of pie tins and plastic grocery bags.

“We’ve been lucky there hasn’t been a single deer that’s gotten into it,” said Scott Worden, an adult who has worked in the garden. “Comes from a lot of experience.”

Worden feels the project was a good experience for the young people. “It shows them hard work pays off. The fruits of your labor are right here in your hands,” he said. “And you get to follow up by harvesting the crop that you worked hard to keep weed-free, keep it watered, keep it alive and now they get to harvest for those that are in need.”

Tom Wilson was dubbed the “master gardener” of the project. In addition to coordinating the work like tilling and rock picking, he was able to get donations of plants and soil.

“I’m sure for some of these kids it’s the first time they’ve seen a hands-on, up-close garden,” Wilson said. “Give you a fish, eat for a day. Teach you to fish, you eat forever. If I teach you to plant, you can grow one of these on a back deck. How much room does it take for five tomato plants? And look at what you’ve got.”

The vegetables were collected and sent to the CHOW for distribution to those in need. But it’s not the last harvest of the year for the young people at Our Lady of Sorrows. A truckload of gourds, including several sizes of pumpkins, has been unloaded in an area they’re calling the Pumpkin Patch.

The patch will be open at Our Lady of Sorrows at Clayton Avenue and Charles Streets in Vestal every day through Halloween. All proceeds will benefit the parish youth group.

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