RYLEIGH NORGROVE/CHRONICLE PHOTOS - Eryn Lawrence takes a close look at her seeds.

COTTAGE GROVE – A new garden club at Cottage Grove High School is taking root, and taking donations, to get things growing on campus. The “Green Club” is a product of student leadership and teamwork, teacher support and community aid. 

The club was started by Youth Advisory Council Member Emma McDonald, after learning about food-deserts in one of her social studies classes. “After doing more research, it made me realize how important it is for people to have food, and the choice of what to eat to try and stay healthy,” said McDonald. “I realized how in need some people are, even in the homeless population and even in Cottage Grove, so I thought, ‘Hey, maybe this is something we can do here.’” 

Pearl Power preps soil as part of the Cottage Grove High School garden club.

The club plans to fix up the garden space on the CGHS campus, grow produce, with 50% of the food being donated to the community and 50% sold to be reinvested into the club. “Green Club is really about using what we have and community in general,” said Ethan McMurray, CGHS junior. “We’re trying to provide for ourselves today and also our school in the future.” Their first meeting was on Earth Day, with more than 30 students in attendance. 

Though the gardeners are in the self-proclaimed “dreaming phase,” their dreams aren’t far from reach – they hope to build new garden beds, plant a pollinator garden, start a composting program and work with art classes to decorate. “We want to make the garden like a place where people can go, mainly. It’ll be an outdoor spot for us to hang out. Right now it’s pretty desolate, but we’re working on it,” said McDonald. 

Emma McDonald and Ivan Reindel check out seed packets.

The Green club is supervised by culinary teacher Leland Futon, who taught environmental science for a majority of his career and has “always tried to instill in students the importance of getting outside.” Mr. Futon is hopeful that in the future some of the produce grown in the garden will be used in his culinary class. “You can tell they just want something that is meaningful and impactful. Something they can get their hands on. There is so much passion and so many ideas, it’s really been amazing to watch,” said Futon. Mr. Futon was integral in acquiring some mulch and topsoil donations from a USDF grant. 

Nick Lahaie, left and Connor Costa size the wood needed for the garden spaces.

The club is in its sapling days, but students are already looking toward the future. Laura Sisson, freshman at CGHS and social media manager for Green Club, even brought her little brother to the first meeting. “Even my brother who’s in sixth grade came out for our first meeting and helped us shovel dirt,” said Sisson. “He was so excited, and it made me really happy to see so many people working towards something together. And hopefully, he’ll get to take care of it later on.” 

McDonald said the club is currently seeking donations of gardening supplies, fruit saplings, compost bins, flowers, and “anything you think would help.”