News release from Fort Wayne Parks and Recreation:
School Children’s Flower and Vegetable Association Turns 85
Mayor Tom Henry was joined today by School Children’s Flower and Vegetable Association President Cathy Blyth and students who participated in this year’s blue ribbon show, as well as Fort Wayne Parks & Recreation Director Al Moll and Manager of Landscape and Horticulture Lynda Heavrin, to celebrate the School Children’s Flower and Vegetable Association’s 85th anniversary, a unique program unlike any other in the country.
“This program has helped create special memories for both parents and children. It’s quite an experience, as a parent, to teach your children such values as patience, commitment, caring and nurturing, and then to see them put those virtues to use as young gardeners,” Mayor Tom Henry said. “This is one of the most valuable and widespread programs we have for young people in our city. It’s no surprise that it has thrived for 85 years.”
In the 1920’s, Park Superintendent Adolf Jaenicke spearheaded the idea to grow plants and distribute the plants to students in Fort Wayne schools. The purpose was to “further education in the Nature Study Theory, growing flowers, plants and vegetables, molding characteristics of worth in making citizens of the future”. The first plants were delivered in 1927, beginning an ongoing program called the School Children’s Flower and Vegetable Association (SCFVA) that has created budding gardeners ever since.
Cathy Blyth, president of the SCFVA, is one of many parents who started volunteering when her daughter was in elementary school and continued helping after her daughter graduated. “Seeing the direct impact the program had on children at my school made me want to continue my involvement,” said Blyth. “One little guy brought me a plant that was rather worse for the wear. His dad told me that he loved his plant so much he took it to bed with him! You can’t tell me we don’t have a horticulturist in the making there.”
Currently, 57 schools and a Home School organization participate in the program. Every student in grades K-4 receives one of nine varieties of plants grown at Lawton Park Greenhouse for the SCFVA. This year, Fort Wayne Parks and Recreation Department employees delivered 18,860 plants in April.
Staff at the Lawton Park Greenhouse start sowing seeds for the Asparagus Springeri plant in mid-September and end with sowing Coleus in mid January. Between those times, they also sow Cyperus “Umbrella Plants,” Dusty Miller, Geraniums and Begonias. The Jacobinia and Strawberry Begonia are taken during that time from cuttings of mother plants stored in the Greenhouse.
Students are responsible for growing their plants and seeds to enter them in their schools’ annual Plant, Flower and Vegetable Show. All the shows lead up to the City-Wide Blue Ribbon Recognition Show at Blackhawk Middle School.
“This program wouldn’t exist without volunteers. Parents and faculty members set up the show and distribute plants and seeds, 38 volunteers travel from school to school to judge the flower shows and executive board members are in charge of the Blue Ribbon Show,” said Director Moll. “Since we’re seeing a resurgence in the value of gardening, we hope the value of the work done by the SCFVA also continues to grow.”