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School, scouts team up for a place to grow



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May 15, 2013 - Brandon Twp.-Long after T.J. Cilley's proposed Eagle Scout project is completed, it will continue to grow.

Cilley, 18, a Brandon High School senior, recently completed a 20 feet-by-30 feet community garden behind Harvey Swanson Elementary School. The future food plot, complete with a wooden fence, available irrigation and tilled soil, will not only help feed a few local residents that may desire some fresh produce, but also will grow some science knowledge for students.

"I attended HT Burt Elementary," said Cilley, a member of Ortonville Scout Troop 139 and Pack 135. "I received a great deal of support from friends and family along with the school. The students participated in the project so they could learn about nutrition and science in the curriculum."

Cilley said many donations from the community were received to get the garden started.

Despite some rather cold weather, which featured mid-May snowflakes last week, students planted a variety of crops in the community garden.

Jessica Hevel, kindergarten teacher at Harvey Swanson for the past five years, had suggested the community garden project to Cilley. "I was in a field placement assignment as a middle school teacher in the Pontiac District about six years ago and they had a community garden," she said. "The students there kept the garden going after the school was dismissed for the summer. If they needed food they could just help themselves to it—so I figured we could do that here in Ortonville."

Hevel, who admits she is not a gardener, does have a passion for organic foods.

"I really wanted to emphasize nutrition to the students, along with having fun with gardens," she said. "But I really had to call on Wojo's Greenhouse to figure out just what to plant and when to plant it. As a result the students were very proud of the project. Most of the classes talked about the needs of plants and with the help of some grow lights we had some nice looking plants to start."

While most of the crops will be ready when the students are gone on summer vacation, Hevel said the garden is open to whoever wants the fresh vegetables.

"All we ask is, pull a few weeds and or maybe water a few plants if something is picked," she said.

"But, the public is welcome to use whatever they find."

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