Tuesday July 24, 2012

PITTSFIELD

In the summer school yard of Conte Com munity School, students are up to their elbows in squash, greens and sunflowers.

This season, for the first time, Operation Better Start of Berkshire Health Systems, has taken on the operation of community garden programs at Conte and on Robbins Avenue in Pittsfield.

"Our goal is to incorporate nutrition education in the garden and get children excited about growing their own food," said Leehe Shmueli, community garden manager for Operation Better Start.

Shmueli hosts community gardening hours at each of the two sites. She also runs classes in the Conte garden for this year's combined summer school program for students at Conte and Crosby Elementary School. About 60 children have class in the garden each Tuesday and Thursday.

"The kids are so great. They're really catching on," Shmueli said.

She also holds classes for Guidewire, a program that supports individuals diagnosed with conditions affecting intellectual abilities and mental health.

The garden manager teaches people about the different vegetables and flowers being grown in the garden, and how to identify and remove weeds from the beds.

Visitors can help tend to the garden beds and even sample and take home food.

This year's gardens include: kale, Brussels sprouts, collard greens, broccoli, cauliflower, yellow summer squash, zucchini, winter squash, tomato plants and sunflowers.