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Blooming Heights Edible Schoolyard & Outdoor Classroom Programming Grows with Garden Assistants

Garden Assistants 2020 Programming offered as a part of the Columbia Heights Public Schools (CHPS) Blooming Heights Edible Schoolyard & Outdoor Classroom expanded beyond the classroom this summer and welcomed four Columbia Heights High School students as Blooming Heights Assistants. This year’s assistants are Fartun Ahmed, Buthaina Asamarai, Tatiana Martin-Gonzalez and AutumnRose TwoBears.

“The purpose of having Blooming Heights assistants is threefold,” said Agriculture Specialist Wes Nugteren, who oversees Blooming Heights and the Assistants. “Receiving help in managing the demands of the garden in summer, offering fulfilling work and education to high school students who have an interest in gardening, and expanding the outreach of Blooming Heights.”

Asamarai said she was initially drawn to the position because of her love for nature. “It gave me an opportunity to learn more about food justice and more about our school garden,” she said.

The Blooming Heights assistants are responsible for a number of duties. Physical tasks in the garden include weeding, insect control, planting, harvesting and processing. The assistants have also been helping Nugteren bag and share much of the garden produce with families at the food sites around the community.

“The assistants also each have an independent special project they are working on including social media and some new signage,” Nugteren said. “We are also learning about local and national gardening, agriculture and food programs that focus on equity, inclusion and social justice.”

“I love being outside and pretty much anything environmental related,” said Ahmed. “I also applied because this would be a good chance for me to explore plants and how I can positively contribute to our community.”

TwoBears said she’s learned a lot about gardening since she’s started. “…harvesting or how to harvest different plants; and how not all weeds are harmful, you can eat some weeds and they can be good for you. My favorite part of the job is working with the plants and figuring how to treat them and making sure they don’t die, or have harmful bugs attacking and eating them.”

“My favorite part is [preparing] and cooking the food we harvest,” said Martin-Gonzalez.

“Our four assistants benefit district families by harvesting and sharing free produce and benefit the garden by making it more beautiful and through their special project contributions,” Nugteren noted. “I hope they have fun, learn new skills, and are inspired to be lifelong advocates for farming, gardening and food.”

For more information on Blooming Heights contact Nugteren at NugtereW@colheights.k12.mn.us or 763-528-4508