WEST CARROLLTON, Ohio (WDTN) — A garden behind West Carrollton High School is helping students grow while also giving back to the community. 

West Carrollton Computer Lab Coordinator Judi Brooks is the green thumb behind the Pirate Patch Garden, guiding its growth.

“I’m here pretty much every day doing something–if it’s just spraying for a squash bug or looking at what’s going on,” says Judi. “I’m always outside.”

Stemming from an idea to connect with nature, the first seeds were planted roughly seven years ago outside of the high school. Judi and another teacher started the garden to show students where their food comes from. 

“I had an interest in gardening and foraging,” says 10th grader Ethan Pappas. “I saw Judi working in the garden one day, just walking by, and I wanted to help do that.”

The Pirate Patch Garden started with a small “L” shape, first producing tomatoes. It’s since grown every year, now producing more than 1,000 pounds of food.

“We have pumpkins. We have kale, onions, cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, tomatoes of course,” lists Judi. 

Roughly 20 students help with maintaining the garden. 

“I started to pick some of the carrots, and I fell in love with it, and it was so fun,” says 7th grader Connie Pappas, who volunteers in the garden. “On some days I’m ready to get dirty, and I don’t even go out with gloves.” 

Grant money from the nonprofit Katie’s Krops helps keep the garden growing. 

When crops are ripe, they’re harvested, weighed, and then donated. This year, the fresh food is going to West Carrollton’s food pantry. 

“This is how we’re supposed to live our lives to give back to others. I’m a very service-oriented person, and I like sharing my knowledge, but I’m a very earthy person,” states Judi. “My mom was a farm girl. I lived in West Carrollton my entire life. My grandmother was very much a plant person. But it’s just who I am. I mean I just feel so comfortable and so relaxed and I want the students to be able to experience too.”

The produce is taken to West Carrollton’s food pantry on Tuesdays and Thursdays.