SMITHVILLE — After planting was done earlier this year by Smithville 4-H, the Eagle Heights Elementary School Gardening Club and University of Missouri Extension, Wildflower Park is ready for its first harvest.

The vegetable and herb garden was planted as a kick off to the community’s participation in Missouri EATs — Engage-Act-Transform — involving the planting of edible landscaping in parks throughout the city.

In partnership with the University of Missouri Extension, this program will teach community members the importance of community gardens and processes behind what people eat.

“I’m going to keep a big one,” Mackenzie Hill, a Smithville 4-H member, said while holding radishes she and her mother Amy Hill harvested this month.

In addition to the Hill family, Amy said Smithville Middle School students also harvested items during summer school.

“They were actually eating them out of the ground,” Amy said with a grin.

In addition to radishes, in the garden are tomatoes, bell peppers, banana peppers, basil, dill and onions.

“There is one corn stalk here, it has some ears growing on it,” Amy added.

Though a set variety was planned in the garden, while exploring the growing plants, Amy said some of the plants were a surprise. The corn stalk randomly sprouted with flowers. A leafy lettuce was found with some of the vegetables.

“I’m pretty fond of the corn stalk,” she said. “I’ve watched that grow.”

In addition to produce and herbs, the park has a wildflower garden, aimed at attracting butterflies. It also is home to a liberty tree that was planted on Earth Day by 4-H members earlier in the year.

All the food grown in the park is open to locals to pluck and have for themselves. Items being harvested by 4-H are given to local food pantries to provide for those in need.

“I wish people would come pick the garden. I don’t know if they are afraid to, but they are welcome to,” Amy said. “Come pick the garden.”

To brighten the garden, 4-H participants, local students, the Extension’s GK Callahan and children from the Wildflower neighborhood also decorated pavers and the shed on the property.

To further aid the garden, Smithville Mayor Damien Boley is working with city staff and the Board of Aldermen to have a sprinkler system put in.

“It’s been a struggle to keep this thing watered but we are getting it done,” Amy said, noting she and Mackenzie live in the neighborhood. “We won’t have to come out next year, which is great.”

In addition to a sprinkler system, in the future, the garden will include more tomatoes and peppers, elderberries and apple trees. The trees will be planted to provide shade, and after a couple years of growth, apples for picking.

Northwest Editor Sean Roberts can be reached at sean.roberts@mycouriertribune.com or 389-6606.

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