CHATHAM, NJ - It's one of those stories about a mom forcing a child to join something and it turns out to be a great experience.
That's what happened to Chatham Lafayette School student Daniel Jackson, who admitted he wasn't much into gardening until he joined the school's environmental club last year.
"At first, I wasn't as environmentally friendly until I joined this," Jackson said. "My mom made me join."
Jackson was one of the Lafayette students who explained his positive experience to visitors from the state Department of Agriculture, who chose Lafayette School as one of the places to highlight "Farm to School" week.
Lafayette teachers Shay Coleman and Ann Worden, who run the environmental club, got to show off the school's garden to Department of Agriculture representatives Beth Feehan and Rose Tricario, along with Assemblyman John McKeon.
Jackson was more than involved in the environmental club, he was one of the caretakers for the garden in the summer. In June, a crop of strawberries brought the learning to the forefront for Coleman and Worden
Lafayette students Daniel Jackson and Priyanka Patel talk about the school garden
"We got this bumper crop of strawberries and we made parfaits with yogurt and the one kid did actually say 'How do you make a strawberry?'," Coleman said. "Stop right here, it comes from the ground. Look here. That's how concrete you have to get with them to make them realize when you go to the grocery store, you understand where that comes from."
Lafayette School and principal Cheryl Russo went all out to show off its blossoming program. During the morning announcements Jennifer Cifrodella sang songs about leafy greens and squash, written by librarian Barbara Massam. In the cafeteria, where there is a living wall of plants on display, teachers came in with leaf headgear to the delight of the students.
"This is budding in our other schools, if not growing outright, so we're thrilled and we thank these folks here for making this happen," Chatham Superintendent Dr. Michael LaSusa said.
Lafayette School also has a green house and Coleman and Worden related how they grew to tomatoes by simply slicing a tomato and planting it.
Chatham resident and Lafayette teacher Shay Coleman gives an overview of the Lafayette garden
Rose Tricari of the state Department of Agriculture talks about the Farm to School program
Assemblyman John McKeon praises Chatham for its efforts tio make Farm to School happen