• Simi Valley Boys & Girls Club Digs Into New Garden - Monday, July 28, 2014 at

  • Garden Club and staff at Simi Valley Boys & Girls Club

    Kids at the Boys & Girls Club of Simi Valley have just planted their first summer vegetable garden thanks to donations from a number of local businesses and organizations.

    The Boys & Girls Club is located at 2850 Lemon Drive in Simi Valley. The Rancho Simi Recreation & Parks District is allowing the club to use an area adjacent to the club building for their garden. The park district also supplied fencing and water for irrigation. Grant money from the Rotary Club of Simi Sunrise, the Harriet Samuelsson Foundation and the Wood Claeyssens Foundation enabled the Boys & Girls Club to build eight 7' x 3 1/2' redwood planter boxes and purchase garden supplies. Agromin, the organics recycler for cities in Ventura County and a producer of earth-friendly organic compost products, donated three tons of compost.
    Ryan Aragones, an after-school and summer staff member at the Boys & Girls Club, is spearheading the project. About 20 youngsters ranging in age from six to 13 are gardening club members with a few older kids helping out. "Everyone is really excited. They want to learn how to grow fruits and vegetables," says Aragones, age 19.

    Club members planted summer squash, tomatoes, pumpkins, zucchini, cantaloupe, herbs, peppers, strawberries and flowers. Once the weather starts to cool, they will plant broccoli, cabbage, carrots, lettuce and beets. The garden will be active year round. "With each new semester of school, we always have new kids at the club so I want all of them to have a chance to participate," says Aragones.

    Virginia Hayward, chief executive officer of the Boys & Girls Club, said the program is designed to "cultivate healthy lifestyles during childhood and aims to build knowledge and skills in gardening, wellness promotion, physical activity and environmental sustainability. We are enthusiastic about this program and are thrilled to be working with so many companies and organizations that see the value of our program and who are dedicated to making a difference in a child’s life. I am also so pleased with Ryan and his dedication to insure the success of the program."

    Garden club members will be responsible for keeping the garden boxes and surrounding area weed free. They will also water the vegetable plants when the club meets on Mondays and Wednesdays. Once the vegetables are grown, the kids will harvest them and learn about meal planning. They will also share the food with other club members and be able to take some home. The children will learn how to can the vegetables so that they can be used at the club’s annual dinner next year.

    Aragones has put together a gardening lesson plan for the upcoming school year that includes teaching kids about healthy eating. "They’ll learn about the nutritional benefits of different vegetables and what they need to grow. We’re hoping that the kids will see gardening as one of those life-long activities that is a rewarding, fun experience," he says. Simi Valley Hospital is also partnering with the club by providing nutritional and wellness information.

    "A garden teaches children that hard work and being responsible pays off. In this case, with lots of great tasting, organically-grown vegetables," says Bill Camarillo, Agromin CEO. "It is an ideal way to teach young people about the Earth and ways to conserve our natural resources."

    The club also received grant funds from two local Walmart stores to operate the program. Sue Means and Kathy Weiner, both volunteers at the club, donated plants and will help out in the garden.

    In the works is a visit to Agromin’s organics recycling facility in Oxnard where the kids will see firsthand how plant materials, such as those from their garden, are turned into compost to be used in orchards, farms, gardens and landscapes.

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