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May 17, 2014

Good things sprouting at YMCA summer camp

Young campers to spend summer seeing fruits of their labor

TERRE HAUTE — Harvesting the fruits of their efforts is a phrase that will take on new meaning for youths participating in the summer day camp at the Vigo County YMCA.

The harvest will be tomatoes — Better Boy, Rutgers and Supersonic. The growers will be youths in elementary and middle school who will spend Fridays in a garden behind Maryland Community Church.

The Tomato Project is the idea of Eleanor Ramseier, YMCA executive branch director, who said she was seeking a project that would encourage children to be responsible, work hard and find reward in their work.

“I decided to give each summer camper two tomato plants,” Ramseier told the Tribune-Star recently. “They will nurture the plant, watch it grow and be able to actually see the finished results.”

But they must also do three things with their tomato crop.

They must share some of the produce with their friends and neighbors, keep some for themselves to enjoy healthy fresh vegetables, and they must sell some to the Mobile Market for resale to see the financial rewards of their work.

“I am hoping that the kids will learn to love to work,” she said. “Not because of the actual labor, but because of the results and the feeling of accomplishment.”

Once she formulated The Tomato Project, Ramseier said, it was not long before Maryland Community Church came on board with the land, along with some volunteers to till and prepare the garden space.

On Saturday, a group of volunteers planned to gather at the garden to plant 200 tomato plants, which were donated by a greenhouse in Clinton. Other donations of tomato stakes have been received, and more donations of gardening tools are needed.

June 13 will be the first day the youths will ride a bus to the church to claim their plants and learn to weed, water and give some tender loving plant care. They will return through Aug. 8, when camp ends. But during the week, volunteers will watch over the garden spot and provide any interim care that is needed.

Taylor Sisson, an Indiana State University student who is volunteering to oversee The Tomato Project, has a lot of experience with gardening, having worked for several years at the greenhouse in Clinton that is donating the plants.

“I’m a tomato nerd,” she said and laughed.

She has collected a lot of twine for the students to use to gently tie up their vining plants to keep some order in the garden. Walking paths of wood chips will separate the garden plots.

Summer camp director Amanda Pendleton said that more than 30 children have already signed up for the camp, and there are still openings available. For more information about the summer camp, call the Vigo County YMCA at 812-232-8446.

Reporter Lisa Trigg can be reached at 812-231-4254 or lisa.trigg@tribstar.com. Follow her on Twitter @TribStarLisa.

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