School Garden Receives $250 Grant from Mass. Teachers

Student Taylor Warren, left, helps Nancy Burke with tomato picking in the courtyard garden.

The courtyard garden created by special education paraprofessional Nancy Burke is going to grow again this season—and it’s not just the plants that will reach for the sunshine.

Burke, a national award winner for her work growing the school garden program at Haverhill High School, will accept a repeat Farm to School grant of $250 from the Massachusetts Teachers Association. That money will buy lumber to build growing towers that will support vegetables such as lettuce and radishes, as well as herbs. More produce will be planted in a new raised growing bed.

Realizing Burke’s dream of involving students of all abilities in the garden program, student Matthew Coyne, an HHS junior, will assemble the tower and raised bed frame in the high school’s wood shop program.

Last year, students cooked with the produce they grew, and entered their best examples in the judging at the Topsfield Fair, where they won second place in pepper and onions, third in carrots, and fourth in potatoes.

This year, carrots, onions and potatoes will go in the “Stew Garden,” tomatoes, peppers and spices will take root in the “Salsa Garden” and strawberries, raspberries and blueberries will grow in a “Berry Garden.” Corn, squash and many more vegetables will be planted, and at harvest time, will land on students’ plates.

Burke has applied for additional grants for some garden hardscape. She plans to put down a patio, made from cement pads, which would hold a glider swing. She also would like to build an outdoor classroom for students to have lessons under a small pergola with picnic tables.

HHS Principal Beth Kitsos said she and other involved administrators and staff want the School Garden to be a warm and inviting place for all students.

A Fall Harvest is planned for Sept. 28 and guests from the National Educational Association and Massachusetts Teachers Association, which have honored Burke for her efforts, have been invited.

“We all commend Mrs. Burke and her great efforts to provide opportunities for our students here at HHS,” Kitsos said.