MANNING - Clouds, a chill in the air and the threat of rain did not deter kindergarten students at Manning Early Childhood Center from having a blast planting and harvesting vegetables from the organic garden they planted behind the school.
On Wednesday morning, the students eagerly cut lettuce leaves, pulled radishes, picked peppers and planted strawberry plants. Their gloves may have gotten a little soiled, and the continuous act of brushing off the dirt made the gloves fall off, but their enthusiasm to work in the soil made up for a little dirt here and there.
"I haven't had this much fun for a long time," said Larry Arlen with a huge smile as he helped youngsters plant strawberry plants in the garden. "This is great."
Arlen, who is a Master Gardener, and his wife, Mary, along with Marie Land, who is also a Master Gardener, and several volunteers assisted in the planting and harvest.
Mary Arlen agreed with her husband.
"This is exciting," she said. "The children love it."
According to Land, who is a frequent volunteer in Clarendon 2 schools, the organic garden is three years old.
"Coach (Michael) Haynes built the beds," Land said. "This year, David Richburg donated the strawberry plants, and Bounty Plants with a base in Alcolu donated all the other plants."
Recently the students collected enough salad fixings from the garden to serve their classes and all the teachers at MECC, Land said as she watched the students gathering vegetables.
"We have cauliflower, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, a variety of lettuces and peppers, cabbage and flowers planted in the beds," Land said. "It's wonderful to see how excited the children are to collect all the vegetables that they've helped grow. I'm not too sure they'll enjoy the radishes, though, but we'll see."
The garden is funded through a South Carolina Farm to School grant, Land said.
"This is a wonderful program that gets the children involved," Land said. "They get to plant them, watch them grow, harvest them and then eat them. It teaches them where vegetables come from and how they get to the table."
The garden is tended by several MECC classes, including the Montessori class of Rosa Stukes, the kindergarten class of Genia Baker and Casey Hilton and the first-grade class of Rhonda Joyner and Savanah Hetcel.