On most Wednesday afternoons, and some Saturdays during the spring and summer, you will find a group of 4-H youth with their hands sunk in the soil of the Guadeloupe Gardens in downtown Tacoma.
What are they doing?
They are growing specialty vegetables for Pierce County food banks. In June, they harvested about 100 Bok Choi plants to help feed the hungry of Tacoma and Pierce County. They later harvested 40 pounds of snap peas.
In addition to tending their own garden, the 22 members of the Dirty Double Dozen 4-H club have been active in the Pierce County Plant-A Row program. This past summer, they transplanted 1,000 squash plants that were later given away to gardeners to grow and harvest for their food banks.
The 4-H club also designed posters to advertise the Plant-A-Row program and to encourage their neighbors to contribute to the food banks year-round instead of just during the holidays. The clubs promotional theme was Christmas in July.
The youth also conducted workshops to teach people how to grow food for their own use as well as for the food banks.
At the end of the summer, the club members hosted a harvest festival and workshop for the whole community. They funded this effort with an $1,800 grant they obtained from the Kraft Food Company through the National 4-H Council.
The community service project is not their only effort. The 10- to 17-year-old club members also produce a club newsletter. Several are enrolled in a photography project and have chosen to document the clubs service project.
The whole club is taking part in the 4-H Challenge project, which encompasses a variety of physical activities in which youth must work together to solve problems. Along the way, they sharpen communications skills and learn how to trust one another.
At the end of summer, the Dirty Double Dozen embarked on a two-day paddling expedition on Puget Sound in 16-person Umiaks, large open Eskimo boats.
One of the unique things about the club is that the members do not have individual projects, said Sam Tower, manager of the 4-H Challenge Program. The club members work in teams. This means that they learn to work together as well as the life skills they learn from their projects.