A green thumb has paid off for this year’s recipients of grants from the Elmira District Horticultural Society Youth Fund.
Sophia Martin and Marlowe Schott were selected by the group to receive $250 and $500, respectively.
Martin took care of the Elmira District Secondary School gardens out front for the duration of the summer, receiving a stipend at the end of the summer, while Schott received the scholarship to help her in her studies at the University of Guelph where she’s studying molecular biology and genetics.
Horticultural board member Karen Smart says they decided to change the program to include a scholarship, but also a stipend for a student to take care of the EDSS gardens.
“We were starting to realize that applicants were drying up, something that a lot of scholarships are running into at the moment. In 2014 we had not had an applicant since 2011 and so we thought if we don’t get anybody this year we’re going to see what we can think of that might be youth oriented that we could repurpose that money to,” Smart said.
They didn’t get any applications that year for the scholarship and it was just about that time that EDSS had installed the new landscaping out front. Barb Finn suggested they invest in having someone from the high school maintain the gardens during the summer because they can get damaged without proper care in the heat.
“The horticultural society does have quite a few volunteers who look after various flower beds throughout the town, but the supply of volunteers is not forever,” Smart said.
Smart contacted Barb Gaudet at the school, who passed it on to the vice-principal, and within two hours it was set up. Last year she found two students to split the duties since one was going away on holidays, and from then on it was renamed the youth fund instead of the scholarship fund.
Schott is the first applicant since 2011 for the scholarship portion of the fund, and Smart says she fits the bill quite well.
“She is studying plant biology and had a special interest in GMOs. She fit the criteria quite admirably,” Smart said.
Schott says it’s an honour to have won the scholarship, which she’s putting toward her education at U of G where she’s in her first year.
“Living in this area, naturally I grew up with gardening around me. My grandpa was a farm boy and playing in his country garden was always a highlight of summer vacation for my brother and I. We probably damaged his tomatoes more than we helped them, but he always enjoyed having us out there,” Schott said.
Smart says having a student take care of the high school gardens over the summer has worked out well. It’s intended to be a low-maintenance garden and it really only needs one person to come by on a weekly basis to look it over and clean it up.
She explains why it’s important to continue the youth fund in relation to horticulture.
“It’s such a fundamental part of living, really. We certainly want to encourage the kids to carry on and get involved with that sort of thing, whether it’s just growing their own garden. I think that it’s becoming more and more important for people to understand their connection to the land and to the ground and to their own food. And of course because it is the horticultural society we do want people to follow in our footsteps,” Smart said.
The money for the fund comes from the membership fees for the horticultural society, which boasts 200 members, and grants they receive from the township and the Ontario Horticultural Association.
“The idea is that we will use that money within the community to beautify and support the town,” Smart said.
She notes the scholarship is very broad. It could be for somebody that’s going into landscape design, horticultural therapy, anything to do with agriculture or horticulture. If they can spread that out to somebody who will weed and understands the importance of weeding a garden, that’s great too, she says.
“I hope that we can continue attracting young people to various horticultural things and supporting them in their future endeavors too, encourage them to get into those kinds of fields that will benefit people in this way,” Smart said.