BRISTOL, Tenn. — Parsley, chocolate mint, garlic, lettuce, tomatoes and petunias are just some of the goodies planted by Haynesfield Elementary students in the Haynesfield Community Garden.

The newly updated garden at the school on Bluff City Highway in Bristol, Tennessee, was debuted Thursday during a celebration that brought students, teachers, parents, community members and school officials together. The garden is open to those in the neighborhood who want to go by and pick vegetables, herbs and spices or plant their own.

The garden is collaboration between Kate White, a first-grade teacher, Hailey Eaton, an art teacher, students, and Appalachian Sustainable Development with the help of a $5,000 community grant from Bristol, Tennessee.

White said the garden started five years ago as two humble flower beds, but she always planned for it to be bigger. She said she’d like the next addition to include a pollination garden and additional beds.

“We want to teach them early on to eat vegetables instead of packaged food and how nutritious vegetables are so they can grow their minds and bodies,” White said.

Exposing the kids to healthy, naturally sourced vegetables has made students more receptive to trying vegetables they might refuse at home, she added.

“The plants here are better to eat than the store,” said 9-year-old Aiden Kite, a third-grader.

Nathan Sells, also 9 and in third grade, said he ate one of the garden’s beets as soon as it was picked.

Another third-grader, Jalyn Kite, 8, said she loves eating the vegetables she helped plant.

“My favorite part is probably the lettuce and the spinach,” Jalyn said. “We made that into a salad, and it was very delicious.”

But there are other benefits to gardening for students, beyond learning to eat healthier. White said taking the kids outside to play and building something has marked effects in the classroom.

“They love to come out here, it helps relieve stress, and they can focus better in the classroom,” White said.

Third-grader Nathan Phillips, 9, said he loves gardening because he gets to play in the dirt.

“It’s fun, and my mom gets mad at me,” he said.

Chelsea Goulding, a program manager with Appalachian Sustainable Development who helped set up the garden, said her organization’s assistance is part of its Learning Landscape. It’s an example of effective partnerships between public and private parties to teach kids every step of food production, she said.

Other elements of the garden are meant to teach children about sustainability, Eaton said. The old cans the spices and herbs are planted in are from the school’s cafeteria and a large decorative flower is actually a repurposed ceiling fan.

It’s great to see students partner with the community,” Board of Education member Derek Linkous said. “It’s an excellent thing for students to be able to start thinking at a young age about eating healthy and ways to work with the community.”

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