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Second graders learn to celebrate spring -thanks to NYS Farm

PLATTSBURGH Jane Gregware, of Chazy, spent a good part of the first day of spring reading to local second grade students. Gregware, who is the chairperson of the Education and Promotion Commission for the state Farm Bureau, also encouraged all the Clinton County Cooperative Extension Master Gardeners to do the same. Gregware explained that reading to students was something they began to do through an annual program, called New York State Agriculture in the Classroom. There are about 500 people that are reading to students in this statewide project, Gregware said. Last year we read a book called More Cheese Please, this year we are reading Lillys Garden, she said. Lillys Garden, she explained, was chosen so that the students could learn more about flower and vegetable gardening. The state Farm Bureau also provided copies of the book for all the public and school libraries across the state. Gregware said program volunteers made arrangements with teachers in their perspective areas to come in and read the book to the students. Gregware visited both Chazy and Cumberland Head Elementary, bringing with her lesson plans for the teachers to follow-up on as well as soil and seeds so that the students could start their own plants in the classrooms. The students at Cumberland Head were eager to hear the story of Lilly, a girl from Maine, who kept in touch with her grandparents in California two states with very different growing seasons. Do you know what today is? Gregware asked the students. Its the first full day of spring! Andits the beginning of our growing season, she announced. The second grade students were very attentive as Gregware read from the book, which touched on everything from oranges to maple syrup production. At each page she stopped for a little discussion with her audience. Even though the ground may still be frozen, March is a good time to start thinking about a garden, she said, noting how certain plants could and should be started indoors from seed. How many of you plant gardens at home? Nearly all the children raised their hands. Some spoke of growing carrots, others of string beans and sweet corn was the one vegetable most everyone agreed upon as a summertime favorite. Once mud season arrives we can soon expect to see the first spring flowers, such as daffodils, Gregware told the students. Gregware told the children how frustrated she was that mice had eaten many of her bulbs. Light bulbs? one child asked. No, she laughed, flower bulbs. She went on to explain how some flowers were grown from bulbs planted in the fall. As the story went on, Gregware took the children through planting season and into harvest time, then on into the fall and winter months. Farmers also grow trees, she told the students. They chatted about the types, including apple, maple and balsam, which many people like to buy and decorate for the Christmas season. As she prepared to leave, Gregware urged the children to help their family, grandparents, or even an elderly neighbor with gardening this year. Not only could they earn money to buy Christmas gifts should they grow enough vegetables to have a farm stand, but they could learn a lot as well.

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