New Castle News

Closer Look

June 19, 2014

Tomatoes kick off summer kids program

NEW CASTLE — The Apple Castle kicked off its “Read Learn and Grow” program yesterday day with about 50 participants.

The program, aimed primarily at children 10 years old and under, took place outdoors at a rustic amphitheatre of crates and benches designed just for the event.

Steve Johnston and his wife, Ashley, operate the event, along with help from The Apple Castle staff. Johnston and his father, Lyle, own the store, popular for its fruits and fresh homemade jams, jellies and preserves.

Ashley explained that they developed the program, now in its second year, because, “we just wanted to see kids come out on the farm and have fun ...”

“... As well as educate kids on where their food comes from,” Steve added, “and what it takes to grow it and bring it to their tables.”

The activities included a story read by Ashley about the proper care of a growing tomato plant. The kids, ranging in age from preschool up to 10,  sat with rapt attention. After the story time Ashley taught, the youngsters learned the many uses for a tomato and  got to sample a tomato freshly grown right at the Apple Castle farm.

The kids’ reactions were, of course, mixed, but all seemed glad for the experience.

After the story, the kids designed a cup with a face and planted grass seed that will grow into hair on their newly designed faces. That was followed by coloring a tomato picture, which included instructions for the care of tomato plants on the reverse.

As each child left, they received two tomato plants of their own to grow. While the kids were excited to receive the plants, parents seemed even moreso.

From there, it seemed most of the families made a stop at the castle playground for a turn on the slide and swings, and then a visit to the store, so mom could buy some take-home treats and kids could view the bee display inside.

“We both enjoy interacting with children,” Ashley said of the program, “and we wanted to do something they would enjoy too. We want to show them that it can be very fun to grow their own food.”

The program continues throughout the summer, every other Wednesday until Aug.13. There is a nominal fee to cover expenses, and all are welcome to the events, which last approximately one hour.

The Apple Castle is located at 277 State Route 18 in New Wilmington.


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