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Our school's garden produce wins Moss Vale Show awards!

Congratulations to our school community – our lovingly-grown tomatoes from the school’s fruit and vegetable gardens have won two 2nd place prizes at the Moss Vale Show this month!

The award-winning produce – including the tastiest varieties of grape, cherry and gourmet tomatoes – caught the keen eye of the show’s judges to win runner up in both the ‘best of all tomatoes’ and the broader ‘best of all vegetables’ categories.

Year 2 teacher and our school's Wollongong Environment Network (WEN) coordinator, Tania Hunstone, manages the thriving gardens with the school’s student environmental team. She was responsible for entering a sample of their wonderful solanum iycopersicum in the fruit and vegetable competition, along with their latest crop of peaches, oranges and parsley.

“We are very proud of our winnings! The student environmental team and I look after the gardens and we’ve grown lots of different seasonal fruit and veggies in the past; but it’s become a tradition at the school to include these tomatoes in our summer crops and grow them especially for entering in the Moss Vale Show” — Mrs Hunstone, WEN coordinator

Mrs Hunstone said the secret to their tomato success is the heart and soul that goes into cultivating and caring for them every day.

“It’s all about lots of love and lots of nurturing, including a bit of talking to [the produce] from time to time! Having a passion for gardening helps,” she said. “We also like to use nutrient-rich soil – for example, we make compost broken down from the fruits and vegetables the children eat and put that in our garden beds.”

Mrs Hunstone said they began the gardens at the school about eight years ago, and have learned a lot about gardening and growing produce along the way.

“It was started by our late colleague and dear friend, Chris Smith – and has continued as a tribute to her,” she said.

“The children in the environmental team are always eager to get involved and love watching our crops grow – fruits like oranges, limes, peaches and tomatoes; vegetables like broccoli, potatoes, cauliflower and onions; and some herbs too.

“They also love the maintenance part of gardening – from pulling out weeds to banging in stakes! There is a real vibe when the children work in the gardens.”

Year 3 student, Eleanar, said she loved being a part of the environmental team and getting involved in the growing process.

“Environment group is so much fun; it’s fantastic! We get to plant, pull weeds, water the gardens and feed the chickens. Gardening is great because you can get your hands dirty” — Eleanar, student, St Paul’s Moss Vale

Mrs Hunstone said the small cash prize associated with the show's awards will go towards seedlings for the school’s upcoming crop.

“The environmental team and I are getting the garden beds ready for our winter crop at the moment, so it’s perfect timing.”

“The awards at the show mean a lot to the school. It gives the students a real sense of community spirit, and the judges – or 'stewards' – love to see what we’ve been growing. It’s one way we as a school can connect to the community, and the children really enjoy seeing our winning entries on display at the show when they visit” — Mrs Hunstone, WEN coordinator 

The school also entered student artworks from each class into the Moss Vale Show’s art contest, where three of the children received a Highly Commended award in their respective age categories (pictured below). Congratulations students! 

Story originally published on Catholic Education Diocese of Wollongong (CEDoW) News.