By Ms TJae Gibson (ARL )April 5, 2012
ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND -- Getting kids to eat their vegetables just may have gotten easier, thanks to a project that kicked off on Aberdeen Proving Ground (APG) March 30 at its Edgewood Area Youth Center.
About a dozen Army Research Laboratory (ARL) senior research scientists and Soldiers have joined with the installation's Child, Youth and School Services program on a community garden project that will -- come harvest -- flip home-grown vegetables into a kid-friendly feast that they'll cook with Celebrity Chef Jason Hisley, of Maryland. A graduate of Johnson and Wales University in Providence, R.I., Hisley is the lead pastry chef at Flavor Cupcakery in Bel Air, Md., and the Season Four winner of the Food Network's Cupcake Wars. He's also a vegetarian.
"Community gardens are a source of interest and pride for those involved and for non-participants. They help people learn about the life-cycle of plants and how easy it is to grow your own food," said Dr. Sandra Young, a materials engineer in the Lethality Division of ARL's Weapons and Materials Research Directorate. She leads ARL's STEM outreach and education programs in the greater Aberdeen area.
"Whether the economy is good or bad, growing your own food is healthy, economical, and tasty. Vegetables grown in a small community or family garden are largely unadulterated because you don't have to use fertilizer or pesticides on a small garden plot."
Renee Main, facilities director at the Edgewood Area Youth Center added, "I think this is a good start in involving the community in a healthy long term project. It is giving the community a chance to see what Youth Services and 4-H is all about."
ARL research scientists gave students insight on civil, material and mechanical engineering as they built a greenhouse from the ground up as part of ARL's robust Earth Day activities. Scientists even walked the youth through soil testing and "why not to fertilize until you know what's in your soil and then if you do, working with natural fertilizers, which is a process condoned by the Maryland Master Gardeners that uses compost for fertilization," said Young, who is a master gardener
The community garden will feature zucchini, broccoli, cauliflower, tomatoes, cucumbers, beans, and Bok Choy, and several herbs like lavender, chives, rosemary, and mint. Some starter plants were donated by Harford County's own Brad's Produce in Churchville and Jones Family Farm in Edgewood, both in Maryland.
In the fall, Chef Jason will team with youth in APG's The Edge program to customize a menu that features food from the community garden.
This summer, Flavor Cupcakery's Bel Air location will feature a zucchini cupcake -- with zucchini from APG's community garden - for a limited time only a signature cupcake in honor of this project. The ARL and CYS are hosting a cupcake naming contest in April to pick that special cupcake's moniker.
"This project has been long overdue. The Military Youth programs, in the U.S. and overseas, are partners with the 4-H. We are working on a special Maryland-focused curriculum this summer called AGsploration. This curriculum focuses on agriculture specific to Maryland by doing many fun activities and projects. The gardening project is a small part of that program. We're teaching youth where food comes from and how much is involved in producing it.
"It's encouraging to help them feel pride in the fact that they grew a cucumber, or a fresh tomato," Main said. "Mrs. Obama is encouraging the U.S. to stay fit and healthy; what better way to do that than plant a garden, till it and eat the results?"