U colleges support

John Adams

In a greenhouse on the St. Paul campus kids are planting the seeds that will soon be 4-foot long flowers hanging from stands across the metro area.
The program is called Kids, Education, the Environment and You, and is partnered with the College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences along with the College of Biological Sciences. These are two of the program’s supporters — which might soon include U.S Attorney General Janet Reno, who will see the program in action this spring.
The program has educated about 7,500 kids in 70 schools in the Twin Cites about gardening and contributing to their community.
With the guidance of University Master Gardeners and volunteers, fifth- and sixth-graders from Barton Open School piled moss, dirt, fertilizer, and finally their name sticks into wire flower baskets at the University’s horticulture greenhouses on the St. Paul campus.
The flowers will eventually end up in flower beds at the Capitol, in one of the 180 hanging flower baskets on Nicollet Mall or anywhere in between.
Farwell Park in north Minneapolis is one of the areas the program will be planting flowers this spring. Children from the program will partner with General Mills and the federal Weed and Seed Program to show Reno what it can do to spruce up the community. But before the plants arrive at the neighborhood they get their start from the children.
The children pile up moss and dirt, place them in the wire basket, then insert the young flowers while the volunteers watch. Fifth-grader Jocelyn McQuirrter said it was nice to know the flowers help the environment, while her co-worker, sixth-grader Jamie Cheever, added, “It’s nice to get out of school too.”
The students’ teacher, M.J. Savaiano, said the program teaches children that diversity is a natural phenomenon and gets them working in communities.
The Kids, Education, the Environment and You program’s next project is on May 15, when they will “flower up” Phillips Neighborhood, one of the inner-city targets of the program. “We’re gonna plant flowers all over the place,” said coordinator of the program John Solberg.
Solberg, 83, is the father of the 8-year-old program.
“I started KEEY when I figured out there was more to gettin’ old than just sittin’ around,” Solberg said.
Solberg can be seen driving around town in the new van or truck donated to the program by Chevrolet, picking up about 15,000 plants a week, most donated from Wagner Greenhouses. But Solberg admits the University is one of KEEY’s greatest assets.
“We couldn’t do it without the help of the U,” Solberg said. The program uses the University greenhouses for storage and education. After the children do the planting, they get a tour of the greenhouses and the Biological Sciences Center.
University officials see the program as a perfect way to help out in the community. Phil Larsen, dean of the College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences, said the program is a winner for everyone.
“It’s a great way for us to help out in the community,” Larsen said. He said the University hopes to educate the students about contributing to their community and about where their food comes from. Solberg was happy to finally recruit the University after being turned down in the past.
“He’s a good BSer,” said volunteer Jack Harper of Solberg.
Solberg even played the Twin Cities off one another to spread the program.
“I was talking to St. Paul and told them about Nicollet Mall, and St. Paul said, ‘Get over to the Capitol,'” Solberg said.