EAST LIVERPOOL — Members of Kent State University’s biological diversity class toiled in the warm spring sunshine Wednesday morning, collecting soil samples in preparation for a project aimed at teaching young people how to grow and market nutritious food.
As part of the “Growing Plants, Growing Community” project, university students will work with children in the Wellsville-East Liverpool NAACP youth program, and Wednesday’s sampling was the first step.
Professor Roxanne Burns accompanied the students, who used special tube-like devices that they pushed several inches into the softening ground, pulling them out with a tube of fresh dirt.
The samples were taken from grids laid out by the students so that various areas of what was once the Thompson Park tree nursery can be tested.
The dirt will be analyzed for a variety of substances, including phosphorus, nitrogen, potassium, mineral components and even heavy metals.
While the sampling was taken at a depth commonly called “plow depth,” Burns said the soil will be tested for more than what is usual for simple gardening purposes, noting “They have things to learn, too.”
Initial inspection of the samples indicated clay deposits close to the surface, which will require “a lot of amendments” such as compost, to make the soil suitable for gardening.
Analysis of the soil samples will be conducted during the students’ next two class periods.
Once the makeup of the soil is determined, the university students will begin preparing the ground for planting, and Burns said the younger students will step in at that point. Horticulture and nursing students are expected to become involved in the project to assist with planting, harvesting and using the food nutritiously.
The East Liverpool Business Association will assist the younger students in selling their produce at a farmers’ market later in the year. The county Extension office has partnered with the project.
Thompson Park board members offered the former tree nursery, which is fenced to keep out deer and other nibblers and equipped with a water source, after Burns said she had second thoughts about her first choice near the S.H. Bell plant due to some reports of possible environmental problems.
Burns said volunteers have stepped up to assist with the project but that supplies still are needed for the youngsters.
The “wish list” includes one or two wheelbarrows, four to six hoes and rakes, six hand trowels, two spades, two spading forks, garden shovels,10-12 pairs of gardening gloves, hose and nozzle, spare lumber, trash cans, seeds and seedlings, tomato cages, stakes, twine, lime, compost, a garden shed to hold supplies and a portable potty. Also needed is someone to plow the ground.
Burns can be contacted at Kent State University, East Liverpool campus.