Gardens Harvest Some Local Pride

The people of Marshall County reap several benefits from the Northern Panhandle Soil Conservation District’s community garden in McMechen.

Through education and donations to community organizations, the district shares the fruits of its labors with the people.

“There’s lots of things that go on there,” said Mark Fitzsimmons, NPSCD chairman of education. “We have grown a lot of vegetables to be donated.”

In the past, Fitzsimmons said, the community garden was used by local students as part of a program to teach them about the food growth process.

“We want them to learn that milk doesn’t come from aisle 17,” Fitzsimmons said.

John Marshall High School and Center McMechen Elementary School both worked with the community garden, Fitzsimmons noted. He said horticulture students from the high school volunteered to help teach the elementary students about gardening.

Students planted vegetables in the spring, Fitzsimmons said, which they would then harvest in the fall to eat in the cafeteria.

During summer 2012, however, Fitzsimmons said the weather was so dry and hot that few of the plants survived until fall. The community garden did not work with students during the 2012-13 academic year. To maintain the garden Fitzsimmons said office employees and work crews collaborated to keep the grounds in good order and care for the plants.

This year all crops from the community garden are being donated to the Simpson United Methodist Church of Moundsville, Fitzsimmons said. Representatives of the church were unavailable for comment.

Beside the garden and offices in northern McMechen stands one school house not likely to be filled this fall, according to Fitzsimmons. The one-room, one-story red schoolhouse building was erected about three years ago for use by local schools. But the structure lacks a few important educational elements, Fitzsimmons said.

“It has no water, no heat, no air conditioning,” he noted.

Without heat, he said, activities are limited to May through October, while without air conditioning it would be too hot for activities from June to September.

Fitzsimmons said the facility also lacks eye wash stations required for science experiments, safety gear and storage spaces for it. While he said the district hopes to finish it eventually, he said it cannot until the proper funds are allocated.