History you can sink your teeth into

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By John Barnhart

A group of children from Body camp Elementary School had an opportunity to learn about gardening and history this summer.

This is the second year the National D-Day Memorial has grown a victory garden. Each year, the garden is grown by local children.

Victory gardens were part of the homefront during World War II. The idea of the victory gardens was to put more land into cultivation by encouraging people to turn backyards into gardens, growing part of their own food supply.

The garden is surrounded by a high iron fence. It's deer-proof but, unfortunately, turned out not to be groundhog proof. One of the chubby rodents burrowed its way into the enclosure and cleaned out the beans.

The children chose what to grow when the garden was planted at the end of the school year. Master gardeners from the Virginia Cooperative Extension provided the gardening instructions.

"We started at the very beginning talking about soil," said Scott Baker, of Bedford's extension office.

Lessons included soil improvement, composting and good versus bad bugs, and bees.

"We had a whole session on bees," Baker said.

A bee keeper showed up, with bees, and did a lesson. There were also lessons on plant selection and starting seeds.

Between eight and 15 children from Body Camp Elementary School worked on the garden on Tuesday afternoons.

The garden has won an award each of the years its been grown. Last year it won the National Garden Association's Youth Garden of the Year award. This year, it won the Virginia Tech Youth Garden Award.

April Messier, the National D-Day Foundation's education director, said that the idea is to provide a gardening experience for local children, particularly for children who have never had the opportunity to garden before. Along with the gardening and World War II victory gardens, they also teach nutrition. Messier said that 4H volunteers prepared all the lesson plans and master gardeners taught them.

According to Messier, Genworth Financial, the Greater Lynchburg Community Trust, Wachovia and the Bedford Kiwanis Club bought the materials needed. The Kiwanis Club also provided volunteers.

On the last Tuesday of the program, the children harvested their garden. There weren't any beans, but they went home with bags full of tomatoes and sweet corn.

The garden is named in honor of Ray and Roy Stevens, twin brothers and platoon sergeants who were present at D-Day. Ray was killed, but Roy survived the war. After the Memorial was built, Roy was a regular volunteer there. He passed away on New Years Day, 2007.