Gallatin Valley Farm to School summer camp

Gallatin Valley Farm to School camp counselors and children explore the gardens at Story Mill Park during one of its annual summer camps.

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If you’re looking to get your hands dirty and give back on Earth Day, a local nonprofit is looking for volunteers to help prepare their gardens at Story Mill Park.

Gallatin Valley Farm to School’s event, in collaboration with Gallatin Valley Food Bank, is the first time the group has held an Earth Day volunteer work day. It is scheduled for Thursday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and individuals are asked to sign up for time slots.

As of Tuesday, the group was looking for volunteers for the morning slot from 9 to 11 a.m. Children can volunteer if accompanied by an adult.

“Although it has been more challenging this year to work with kids in schools, we are seizing every opportunity to connect kids with families with local food in the garden and our community,” said Kate Emmerich, associate director of the nonprofit. “Earth Day is a well known day to do this, and we hope this experience gets families excited for the growing season.”

Social distancing measures and masks will be required for the event, and tools and equipment will be disinfected between uses. Volunteers will prepare and seed garden beds, turn compost piles, organize the tool shed, clean the perimeter of the garden and clean the Bozone Ozone Bus, or BOB.

Events like volunteer work days, Emmerich said, help children and their families make connection between where their food is grown and how it ends up on their plates, which helps to grow a stronger local food system.

The Story Mill garden is used during the nonprofit’s full-day camp program during the summer. The camps take place outdoors and each week features a different food and garden-related topic. The student activities include gardening, cooking, science investigations, art projects and games.

“The kids grow and cook food from the garden, investigate plants and animals that are living there and learn about how our food choices impact our health and the health of the environment,” Emmerich said.

Emmerich said there is limited space in the summer camps but people can sign up online at www.gvfarmtoschool.org/summercamps.

The Gallatin Valley Food Bank donated 10 raised garden beds for the nonprofit to use during summer camps in the learning garden at the park.

“In the height of the summer, the garden is overflowing with abundance and campers are a big part of helping maintain the gardens and then harvesting and cooking with the bounty we’ve grown,” Emmerich said.

The nonprofit has partnered with the food bank in the past, including donating small amounts of produce grown in the school gardens and Story Mill garden for last year’s Earth Day event.

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the nonprofit held a free seed distribution last year to help kick off the growing season. The group, alongside the Gallatin Valley Food Bank, distributed seeds and planting instructions to over 150 people.

Emmerich said there will be more opportunities to get involved with the Gallatin Valley Farm to School including this year’s Give Big Gallatin Valley fundraiser May 6 and 7.

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Liz Weber can be reached at lweber@dailychronicle.com or 582-2633.

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