Gardens are not usually the place for a pep rally, but Friday at Vinton County Middle School sure felt like one.

Brutus the Buckeye joined Ohio State University President Michael Drake and a group of OSU agricultural students in a much-heralded visit to Vinton County. The coalition traveled to McArthur as part of a summer tour through southern Ohio.

The garden began this past school year as one of many community service projects undertaken by middle school students. With Drake and the agriculture students there to help, everyone pitched in and got their hands dirty.

The group picked some produce, installed a new garden bed complete with dirt and mulch, raked the entire garden area and planted some new vegetables in time for the second growing cycle.

“We were able to get more done in 45 minutes than Nikki Waldron and I would be able to do in a week,” said Megan Macke, a VCMS teacher who has overseen the students’ community projects. “So far this summer we have been able to harvest quite a bit of produce.”

All the while, Brutus kept everyone thoroughly entertained. He played air guitar with a rake and danced to “Hang on Sloopy.” Everyone then joined in a circle around the garden area and sang the traditional OSU song, “Carmen Ohio.”

The coalition first came into Vinton County on Thursday night and spent the night at Ravenwood Castle. The next morning, the group first met at McArthur Village Hall and were welcomed by Mayor Jim Wooddell.

Everyone in attendance was given a McArthur Bicentennial button and Wooddell encouraged the OSU students to live in Vinton County after graduation if they liked somewhere “laid back, slower and quiet.”

Everyone headed down Main Street to see the community mural (painted by VCMS students) before heading to the garden.

Also present were Vinton County Extension Director Travis West and Ohio Sen. Bob Petersen (R-Washington Court House). Bruce McPheron, vice president of Agricultural Administration and Dean at OSU, spoke highly of West’s work in Vinton County and called him a “star” on the local agricultural scene.

West said their trip was a good opportunity to detail the food and health struggles of Vinton County, which remains the only county in Ohio without a full service grocery store. West highlighted the many initiatives to combat Vinton County’s “food desert” status, including another local community garden hosted by the extension office.

Both West and Macke said they hoped the visit would continue to foster a partnership between Vinton County and Ohio State University for food desert solutions and educational opportunities.

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