Fulton High School garden thrives on student volunteerism

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - Pulling weeds, squashing bugs and harvesting produce are all part of the process at the Fulton High School community garden. Teacher Karen Wilkinson organizes student volunteers who can earn community service credit for helping with the garden, that is bursting with fresh beets and large leave of kale.

"The more we pick it, the more it grows," explained Wilkinson to student volunteer Madison Gibbs as they harvested beets.

Wilkinson said only a few students volunteer and show the level of enthusiasm that Gibbs does. "Of the 20 different kids that helped, I maybe had five of them that came back on a regular basis. So, those kids don't mind working in the dirt," said Wilkinson.

Gibbs explained that she enjoys taking home fresh vegetables for her family, "I've taken lettuce home. I've taken tomatoes home.
Ms. Wilkinson gave me a few tomatoes to take home that I planted in my garden at home."

Gibbs said she also thinks gardening is good for the soul, and she recommends other teens might want to try it. "If you get in the garden and you start working and you get your hands in the dirt, it is very good for your mental health. That to anybody that has been going through stuff, if you do this, it will definitely, you won't regret it."

The garden gets some funding from the school's science department and is also the recipient of some community grant funds. Wilkinson is deciding how to be use some of those funds to build a bigger shed and an informational kiosk. "I don't want people just coming and taking produce, I want them to help in the garden. And so if I got a kiosk out here with pictures of bad bugs to squash, they might squash some bugs for me."