UPPER MARLBORO, Md. – During this uncertain and challenging time in the Prince George’s County community, The Prince George’s Soil Conservation District (PGSCD) was proud to partner with Prince George’s County Public Schools’ William S. Schmidt Outdoor Education Center, Gwynn Park High School’s FFA Chapter, University of Maryland Extension Prince George’s County’s Food Supplement Nutrition Education Program, the Washington Gardener Magazine and Council Member Dannielle Glaros to distribute vegetable, herb, and house plants to food distribution sites in District 3.
Gwynn Park High School’s FFA chapter grows a variety of plants for its annual plant sale which helps to fund FFA programs. Unfortunately, COVID-19 presented challenges that put the plant sale on hold indefinitely. In early April, James Robertson and Donald Belle, educators from the William S. Schmidt Outdoor Education Center, and Gwynn Park High School agriculture teacher Leasa Gudderra, approached the District about assisting the FFA chapter with the distribution of their plants out into the community. As details for the plant distribution were coordinated, the District contacted Deborah Archer and Esther Mitchell of the University of Maryland, Prince George’s County, about gardening and nutrition resources to accompany the plants when they were distributed. Dr. Archer, project leader and nutrition educator with the Food Supplement Nutrition Education Program in the County, connected PGSCD with District 3 Council Member Dannielle Glaros.
“This is a challenging time for so many and it’s especially difficult for our immigrant community,” said Dannielle Glaros, District 3 Council Member. “Seeing the absolute surprise and joy when we were able to hand them a plant, along with a hot meal, was really special.”
Plants were delivered at multiple meal and food distribution sites, including the Center for Educational Partnership and Riverdale Elementary School in Riverdale, East Pines Community Building in Riverdale Park, and the Carrollton Elementary School in New Carrollton. In addition to hot meals provided by the World Central Kitchen, Sardi’s and Geppetto Catering, each person was offered a plant and educational materials.
Dr. Archer shared a personal testimony from a woman who received a plant that reminded her of her home country. She exclaimed “I know this plant!” and became emotional as she envisioned the same plant in her memories of growing up. As she tends to the plant and movies it to a larger container, this donation will create lasting memories.
Not only were the plants successfully distributed to the community, PGSCD also donated $3,370 to Gwynn Park High School’s FFA program for the 1,685 plants delivered by PGSCD staff. “This was such a positive partnership with Council Member Glaros, University of Maryland Extension and the Schmidt Center,” said Steven Darcey, Executive Director of Prince George’s Soil Conservation District. “Everyone came together to distribute these fantastic plants from the Gwynn Park High School’s FFA chapter which provided the District 3 community with fresh vegetables, herbs, and house plants. We hope this will inspire folks to start a garden in their backyard or on their balcony and experience the joys of raising fresh food for their families.”
The remaining plants were transported to Maryland-National Capital Park & Planning Commission’s Department of Parks and Recreation greenhouses. They were distributed at the “Grab ‘N Grow” meal sites at Glenarden, Marlow Heights, and Oakcrest Community Centers. Along with the plants, a variety of vegetable seeds donated by Kathy Jentz from Washington Gardener Magazine were also distributed.
Several PGSCD staff serve on the Prince George’s County Public Schools’ Environment, Agriculture, and Natural Resources Program (EANR) Advisory Committee that provides support for Gwynn Park High School, Fairmont Heights High School, and High Point High School that participate in the EANR career development program. All the students enjoyed giving back to residents in the community and participating in the giveaway.
“Planting in the greenhouse and selling the plants during spring were a highlight of my high school career,” said Ms. Taylor Thomas, Gwynn Park High School senior and program participant. “We learned how to grow the plants from seedlings and transplant them for our annual Spring sale. Although we were not able to sell plants this year, the Soil Conservation District became a major supporter. This is a perfect example of how giving back is a wonderful thing. I would like to say thank you to the Soil Conservation District, our Environmental program students and our FFA Advisors.”
Ryan Smith, a Gwynn Park High School sophomore, also shared his positive experience participating in the giveaway. Mr. Smith said, “Our agricultural classes worked hard in the greenhouse, and I’m glad the plants are going towards a good cause.”
“The process has now run full circle,” said Roger Ford, one of M-NCPPC’s greenhouse managers and Gwynn Park High School alumni. Mr. Ford has fond memories of the earlier version of the EANR program when its focus was on horticulture. “Coming out of the horticulture program in 1999 at Gwynn Park to now 20-plus years later, housing plants from that same program at M-NCPPC greenhouses. This is not something I could even think would happen 20 years ago.”
PGSCD is grateful to have participated in this charitable and community-led initiative that will hopefully benefit the well-being of County residents. PGSCD is committed to making a lasting positive impact in people’s lives in order to help build a better and brighter future.
About the Prince George’s Soil Conservation District:
The mission of the Prince George’s Soil Conservation District is to protect and promote the health, safety and general welfare of the citizens of the State and County, and otherwise enhance their living environment, by conserving soil, water, and related resources and by controlling and preventing soil erosion in order to preserve natural resources, control floods, prevent impairment of dams and reservoirs, assist in maintaining the navigability of rivers and harbors, preserve wildlife, protect the tax base and protect the public lands.
The Soil Conservation District provides grading and sediment control, agricultural landowner assistance and rural preservation services to the citizens and residents of the County in order to protect the County’s soil and water resources.
–Donnell Richardson, Prince George’s Soil Conservation District