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Scenes from The University of Rhode Island

4-H Club in Richmond, Hopkinton wins national gardening contest

Media Contact: Todd McLeish, 401-874-7892

Garden to be featured on PBS television program Zoom!

KINGSTON, R.I. -- October 4, 2004 -- The Little Rhody Ranchers, a 4-H club based in Richmond and Hopkinton, scored a gardening victory as the winner of a national gardening contest for children sponsored by PBS television's Victory Garden program.

The club won in the "group" category. A child in Tampa, Fla., won in the "individual" category.

The contest, called Fast Food From the Garden, encouraged children ages 6 to 12 to grow a vegetable garden so they eat healthy foods and learn that "all fast food doesn't come from the drive-through." For winning the contest, the club will receive a gift basket of gardening tools, and the garden will be featured on the PBS children's program Zoom! next spring.

"We're very excited that a Rhode Island 4-H club has earned this tremendous honor," said Marcia Morreira, Children, Youth and Families program leader at the University of Rhode Island's College of the Environment and Life Sciences, which administers the state's 4-H program. "The garden was a great learning experience for the children, and a great community service project as well, since all the vegetables were donated to local food pantries."

The winning garden is a 90-by-40 foot plot of land off Mechanic St. in Richmond and adjacent to the Wood River on land owned by the Link family, the newest members of the Little Rhody Ranchers. The club's 25 members selected, planted and harvested the produce -- cucumbers, eggplant, zucchini, yellow squash, cabbage, green peppers, tomatoes, lettuce, musk melon, and watermelon, as well as herbs and flowers.

"I think we won in part because we included a large group of kids of many different ages, which fostered a great deal of mentoring between the older kids and the younger ones," said Jennifer Anderson, who serves as co-leader of the club with Kathleen Damicis. "We also made a reasonable selection of species to plant, and we introduced some science to the project, like the use of a rain gauge and thermometer for low-key meteorology and the use of companion plants to demonstrate how some plant species have symbiotic relationships."

In addition to planting, weeding, watering and harvesting, club members kept a garden journal about their experiences during the growing season. After the final crops are harvested this month, the group will plant a winter cover crop of buckwheat and make plans for next spring.

"Next year we plan on doing some garden demonstrations for other kids, which will jive with our goal of practicing more leadership skills," Anderson said.

Club members are Hallie and Emily Anderson; Phillip and Kyle Audette; Jordan, Jessica and Jennifer Damicis; Raymond and Kaitlin Doloff; Sean, Daniel and Rebecca Fitzgerald; Jonathon, Juliette, Abigail and Karen Link; Jacob Marshessault; Natalie and Michael Niemeyer; Allison, Nina, Joey and Nick Palumbo; and Nathan and Justin Tefft.