NORTH PLAINFIELD, NJ – The North Plainfield School District’s Pathways Program, a career-readiness program for special education students in ninth through 12th grade, held a Jersey Fresh Harvest Day on May 29 at the Harrison School. The event, which was attended by administrators, faculty, parents and community members, featured a ribbon cutting and reception celebrating the products grown this year in the school’s greenhouse and the program’s s partnership with Maschio’s Food Service.

Since September, the students have been working closely with Joe Gyurian, horticulturalist with Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Somerset County, on the greenhouse products and, with his help, successfully grew different varieties of coleus along with numerous vegetables, including but not limited to parsley, cilantro, tomatoes, peppers, basil and cilantro.

“Mr. Joe taught us many skills this year, including how to plant seeds and care for each plan,” said one Pathways student while another added, “We learned many skills along the way.”

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Pathways integrates core curriculum content standards with career orientation training and, according to teacher John Burke, the program teaches students across the curriculum. Science skills are used to determine a plant’s life cycle; math skills are applied to track the temperature and height of the plants; and business skills are used to organize and manage two successful plant sales, which this year raised $750.

“Most importantly, the program helps develop a sense of accomplishment and builds on teamwork and social skills,” said Burke. 

This year, Pathways has partnered with the Chester-based Maschio’s Food Service and, according to the company’s Corporate Executive Chef Steve Escobedo, herbs and vegetables grown in the Pathways Greenhouse will be used in menu items served to students at North Plainfield High School.

“Programs like this are very important,” said Escobedo, noting that school districts are requiring food service companies to serve healthier, fresher options. “The availability of local grown items is becoming more and more prevalent. It’s important to know what is going on our plate.”

Additionally, any items Maschio’s cannot use will be donated to the Food Bank Network of Somerset County. “The greenhouse isn’t just about producing a profit. It’s about giving back to the community…” said Burke, adding, “The students did a fantastic job with the greenhouse this year.”