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The Edible Garden Project
The Edible Garden Project

Fourth graders at Anna Maria Elementary School create a feast with their Fall Harvest

“If you want to see kids excited about eating their veggies, encourage them to plant a garden,” read the post on the Beach Bistro Facebook page Tuesday.

As part of the Edible Garden Project, Fourth Graders at Anna Maria Elementary School harvested their fall garden this week, bringing their bounty to Eat Here restaurant, where they learned to make wraps, salad dressing and veggie pizza.

Now in it’s eighth year, the initiative began following a brainstorming session that Susan Timmins (co-owner of the Beach Bistro, along with husband, Sean Murphy) had with guidance counselor, Cindi Harrison. The school was working with Master Gardener Christine Callahan and, together, the three developed the Edible Garden Project.

“While my own children were in Anna Maria Elementary School, I was very involved in volunteering there, and we at the Beach Bistro partnered  with the school in a variety of ways over the years.” Timmins told me. “I missed my involvement with the school after our children graduated, so I met with Cindi to discuss how we might work with the schools once again.”

Past events included the Bistro providing food at the school’s annual Fall Fest, hosting holiday dinners for the teachers and providing annual dinners for students and families in the school cafeteria. With the opening of their sister restaurant, Eat Here Anna Maria Island, in 2010, both restaurants became involved with the project.

The Bistro funds the money for seeds, dirt, fertilizer and earth boxes while Master Gardener Christine Callahan works with the children in planting and growing their organic garden. Here, the kids learn to troubleshoot through things such as aphid infestations, mildew and rain shortage.

In the spring, the students bring their harvest to the Beach Bistro, where chefs create a luncheon from their fresh herbs and vegetables. Arriving in their “Sunday best”, the students have been coached by their teachers on dining etiquette, and they have fun figuring out which herbs are in which dish. Not limited to main courses, they even got to try unique desserts that included rosemary shortbread and basil chocolate chip ice cream.

In December, the students work with their fall harvest. During this time of the year, they get a hands-on cooking lesson at Eat Here, where they get to create their own lunches. This year, the fourth graders made a feast with the cauliflower, broccoli, carrots and radishes that they had grown. Local gardener, Aaron Welch, joined the class at Eat Here, providing them with healthy greens to add to their recipes.

Susan Timmins and Sean Murphy keep all of thank you letters that the students write them each year.  And, there are hundreds of them. “Some of the children have asked their parents for earth boxes and seeds for Christmas” Timmins said with pride. “Over the years, I have heard that several families have begun backyard gardens at their children’s request. What is heartwarming for me is seeing the ‘aha’ moments when they begin to understand where food comes from.”

The best part? Kids actually want to eat their vegetables!

To learn more about the Edible Garden Project and other of the Bistro’s “Community Passions” visit www.BeachBistro.com

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