Vidalia class wins national award

Published 2:57 pm Thursday, June 7, 2007

VIDALIA — Eight local teens were recognized recently at a national level for their green thumbs.

The Vidalia Red Fern Gardeners, a youth club sponsored by the Vidalia Garden Club, was awarded the High School Gardeners Accomplishment Award by the National Garden Club for having the best all-around gardening program in the nation.

Student members of the group were Richard Trugillio, Kevin Seale, Kelvin Trugillio, Laycie Drummer, Jared Burnette, Brent Evans, Wyatt Myers and Patrick Smith.

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The Red Fern Gardeners were all ninth through 12th grade students at Vidalia High School.

A program for non-college bound special education students was already in place at VHS to teach students life skills, including gardening, and so the groundwork was already in place for the garden club to sponsor a group, club member Eleanor Talley said.

The garden club’s involvement found its genesis two years ago when the club’s regional office started a program called Kids Count, Talley said.

With the approval of school board officials, the club began sponsorship of the group.

Students took academic classes before lunch every day, and afterward had a horticulture class, a shop class and a survival skills class.

The hands-on horticulture class was taught by Vidalia Garden Club member Suzanne Wiggins.

“This program teaches them how to survive out in the world,” she said. “They learn carpentry or could go work in a nursery.

“We have a good time.”

Along with standard classrooms, the students were given access to a greenhouse and a plot of land for growing vegetables.

Students learned how to fertilize and prepare soil, row up plant beds, select seeds, water, weed and otherwise care for a garden.

They grew several different fruits and vegetables, including cabbage, squash, mustard, tomatoes and pumpkins and sold them.

Students also made and sold bat and bird houses and ornamental pot plants.

Sale proceeds were used to fund supplies for other projects.

“The enthusiasm, pride in their work and joy of accomplishment exhibited by (the students) have been very satisfying to all who have come in contact with them,” Talley said.

The Red Fern Gardeners and their sponsors were recognized for their achievements at the May school board meeting.