Summer project feeds a community

Published 4:20 pm Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Like a plant, her venture to feed others began as a seed, a small project for a Governor’s School of Southside Virginia class.

Charlotte Powell had no idea that her senior project would so quickly help so many that are in need around her.

Beginning with hundreds of tiny tomato seeds, Powell has cultivated and raised a bounty of squash, corn, watermelon, zucchini and much more in a garden spot behind her house.

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What began as a project recording the effects on spacing tomato plants has become her vision of a cornucopia of food for the community.

This is the first time the Buckingham County High School student has planted a garden, tilled soil and driven posts into the ground — all for the community.

“We were going to plant 50 tomatoes at different spacing,” the 17-year-old said of the initial project. During the planning stages, she decided she wanted to donate the food she produced.

“I was like, let’s donate them! … That’s where it all started from,” she said while sitting at her kitchen table after working in her garden.

On top of working two jobs during her summer break, Powell planted a large garden, full of corn, okra, cantaloupe, peppers, eggplant and other vegetables, not for her to eat or can, but to donate to those who need it most in the community.

“It’s been really fun. I’ve actually enjoyed it. It’s been hectic. It’s a lot to do. It’s a big garden. When you look at it, it doesn’t look that big, but then you start working on it. …,” she said.

One week after planting her tomatoes, she started to plant everything else. She began thinking about the garden in March, talking to her dad, Steve, and mom, Penny, about it.

“The research tomatoes all had to be planted on the same day … Everything else has kind of been planted like periodically. …,” said Powell.

Her drive to help others came, in part, she said, from attending a Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership (HOBY) conference in the 10th grade.

Her mom says that the conference exposed Charlotte to so much and allowed for personal growth, calling it a “game-changer” for her.

And her garden, once only intended for tomato plants for her project, is evidence of her growth. She planted 100 tomatoes, 40 zucchini, 50 squash, about 50 okra, 200 corn, 25 pepper and 50 cucumber plants and lots of watermelon and cantaloupe.

“It’s been a really good experience for the two of them,” said Penny of the father-and-daughter team.

Powell said in addition to her parents, agriculture instructor Casey Davis also helped in the beginning stages of the garden. Her grandparents also aided by sending seeds and starting plants for her.

“I really don’t think I’ve grasped how much I’m going to have,” she said of her crop.

In addition to volunteering and distributing food, Powell decided to donate most of her crop to Crystal Cathedral’s food ministry.

“There’s something fulfilling about doing something for someone other than yourself,” she said.

Powell, who said she spent 15 hours weekly in the garden, believes it will make an impact on a lot of people. “And I think that’s important,” she said. “I really wish I had thought about it sooner so I could have done it every summer.”

As she returns to school, Powell wants to continue her community service. She’s thinking about ways to grow vegetables in the high school’s greenhouse and donate food year-round. 

Powell said her inspiration to do good and help others comes from within, “but not in a selfish way. God has blessed me with an incredible drive. There is a fire inside of me that wants to do things for others and right now the garden is how it’s coming out. In the future, I hope it’s something much larger.”