Students grow vegetables for Issaquah Food & Clothing Bank

September 25, 2012

By Lillian O'Rorke

Isabella and Alexandra Mohn examine the day’s tomato harvest. By Lillian O’Rorke

It’s a sunny early autumn afternoon and in between attending Sunday school and running off to soccer games and other fun pastimes, several local youths gather to harvest food for the Issaquah Food & Clothing Bank.

“Digging the potatoes — it’s really fun,” Alexandra Mohn, 9, said.

She, her twin sister Isabella and about a dozen other children from their church, Spirit of Peace United Church of Christ, which meets at the Pine Lake Community Center in Sammamish, have been tending a garden for months, and with the leadership of Wally Prestbo have grown more than 225 pounds of fresh vegetables for the food bank.

“It’s a culmination of my interest in gardening and wanting to have a mission for the children of the church,” said Prestbo, who grew up on a small farm in the Spokane Valley.

Having had a garden nearly everywhere he has lived, Prestbo now volunteers, teaching classes at the Bellevue Demonstration Garden, and keeps a large garden at his home in Sammamish. Much of what is grown there is also donated.

“That is probably the largest need at the food bank,” he said. “They never can get enough produce, fresh produce.”

The “Spirit of Peas” garden, as reads the sign made by one of the church’s youths, Josh Wentzien, is made up of two 4-by-16 plots in Issaquah’s pea patch on Juniper Street. For three years, Prestbo and his gang of young gardeners have been growing things such as peas, radishes, lettuce, spinach, chard, broccoli and carrots.

“I plant a little bit of everything, so the children have a chance to see how to plant the different types of vegetables,” Prestbo said. “This is a special chance for them to experience gardening firsthand and get their hands dirty.”

This year the group began planting in May. Now, with the nights growing colder and colder, the last crops to harvest are tomatoes, potatoes, zucchini and cucumbers.

“When they were digging the potatoes out of the ground it was like an Easter egg hunt,” Craig Mohn, Alexandra’s and Isabella’s father, said.

On the way to harvest the potatoes Sept. 16, the children said they wanted to dig up more than last year. In the end, their efforts yielded more than 60 potatoes, small and large, according to Prestbo.

“They are learning a lot about working as a team,” said Suzi Mohn, the twins’ mother. “They’ve seen the line of people waiting for the food, so they have a sense of what it’s about.”

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