LINCOLN — When heavy floodwaters came tearing through the mountain village of Lincoln on Sunday, Aug. 28, a group of 20 community members rescued their local elementary school’s garden — one of Lincoln Community School’s central pillars.
“It’s pretty much the whole second-grade curriculum,” said sixth-grader William Schoenhuber, about the garden’s role in his education.
“It was pretty important for us to study the garden,” he added. “I feel that everybody needs to do that.”
More than just an educational tool — used by teachers and students to explore how human beings are linked to food — the garden is a source of nourishment for the school’s cafeteria, sustenance for local food banks and pride for the children who work in it.
So when the New Haven River began flooding that Sunday, community members got to work. A team of parents, firefighters, neighbors, teachers and students braved the rains from Tropical Storm Irene and pitched in to save the garden.
As the waters rose rapidly, the local team harvested bundles of carrots, onions, turnips, tomatoes and beets. Raised beds were disassembled and a small team used a chainsaw to cut holes in the garden shed, fastened chains through them, and hauled the structure 20 feet — out of the river’s wrath.
The only remaining concern was the school greenhouse. But due to the structure’s orientation to the river, the gardeners were able to simply open the doors on either end and let the river run through it.
“Because all of the kids at the school have taken part in the garden, they feel a real sense of pride for it,” said Patty Schoenhuber, a second-grade teacher and William’s mother. “There were kids of all ages on Sunday. They were just so dedicated to saving the shed and saving the garden and harvesting the plants.”
On Thursday, Schoenhuber’s second-grade class paired up with fifth- and sixth-graders and together they put the garden back together.
“This road’s called River Road,” said fifth-grader Caleb Hamilton, pointing to the road that the school sits on. “(Sunday) it was more like ‘River River.’”
The students put the raised beds back together and inspected the plants. Some were still very much alive, some were alive but horizontal and some were simply washed away. A stand of trees that once formed a barrier between the school and the river is missing, and remnants of the creek bed are scattered across the schoolyard and garden.
“We’ll probably have to replant some things, but I’m sure (the garden) will get back to where it was,” said fifth-grader Carlyle Grundon.
“As much as the flood was scary and devastating and tragic, it’s really amazing how in those times it pulls a community together,” Patty Schoenhuber said. “It wasn’t a huge amount of people, but it was a snapshot of the potential that people have.”
Reporter Andrew Stein is at [email protected]