Meeting Notes

STH Meeting - March 1, 2016

posted Mar 1, 2016, 9:53 PM by Kristina Fernandes

Attendees: Ann DeKruyff, Kathy Schnair, Krissy Vargas, Krissy Fernandes, Cydney Hodder

Topics of Discussion: At this meeting, the goal was to assign owners to each of the grades and discuss the grade-level curriculum and planting schedules in more detail.

Grade Level Planners
For the grade-level owners, we have the following volunteers identified. As other volunteers are identified, the responsibilities can be shared.
  • Kindergarten (Rainbow Flower Garden/Sunflowers): Ann DeKruyff
  • First Grade (Fall Crop - Brussel Sprouts/Cabbage/Broccoli): Cydney Hodder
  • Second Grade (Carrots): Krissy Vargas, Julia Sundari
  • Third Grade (Pumpkins): Krissy Fernandes (temporary until another volunteer is identified)
  • Fourth Grade (Potatoes): Krissy Fernandes
Grade-Level Curriculum
We discussed the curriculum a bit more and decided that it would work best for all grades to create garden workbooks that would be given out during the first planting and then would be kept in the classroom for on-going observations and activities.

The idea is to have some information about the plant(s) assigned to the grade. Then some information about how plants grow and anything special that is needed by their assigned plant.

On the first day (when seeds are planted) students would make observations about the seeds/plants and make predictions about how their plant will grow. Then, there will be 4-5 other observation pages that can be used throughout the spring. The goal is to give the teachers everything they need to go outside with their class and observe the plants without any volunteers needed. Ideally, volunteers would only be involved during seed planting, plant transplanting, garden crafts, and possibly garden maintenance (if the teachers elect to do this). All observations, book reading, and activity sheets can be done in the classroom by the teacher.

Each grade would need a Spring and Fall version. Spring would be focused on the planting and growth of the plant. Fall would be focused on the plant maturity, harvesting and uses of the plant.

Aside from the observation sheets, other activities can include writing prompts, games, coloring pages, math problems, discussion points, etc. The goal is to ensure that the activities are age appropriate and ideally tie into the classes curriculum. This is were communication with the grade-level teachers is key. It is best to go to the teacher(s) with an outline/plan and get their feedback rather than going to them with a blank slate.

It is important to note that not all this work (workbooks, planting and in-class activities) needs to be done by the Grade-Level Planner. Kathy Schnair has already begun working on the First Grade workbook and a lot of that can be reused. Also, room parents and other volunteers can/should be used for the classroom activities, so you do not need to be there for any/all of them. It's really the communication with teachers and coordinating the activity schedule that is most important.

Planting Schedule
I have gone through all of the seed packets I purchased this year in order to determine the best seed-start dates and whether the plants can be started inside (utilizing the greenhouse) or if they are direct-sow. I have created a spreadsheet on the Drive with all of this information (https://docs.google.com/a/benhempto.org/spreadsheets/d/1UHVDm8a0_mOdrrrF5_G-CBILdujaAcFbCO-n1sYHxvM/edit?usp=sharing).

Going through the seeds, I found that we are missing a few. We need Broccoli, Cabbage and Brussel Sprouts for the First Grade. Also, for the Second Grade we need a few more flowers for the rainbow garden. I have a bunch from last season that I think we should still be able to use but I may get a few Dahlia's to be sure. For Third Grade, we need some more packs of the Jack-Be-Littles (there are only 15 seeds per packet and we need about 150 total). And finally for Fourth Grade we will need the seed potatoes. I will order these online.

Giant Pumpkin
After doing some more research, I don't think that growing a Giant Pumpkin this year is feasible. They just take up way too much space. If we can get Ben/Ian to let us use the space behind the First Grade windows, we might be able to take this on next year. Or, another idea was to plant a fruit tree (i.e. apple) somewhere out back.

Mushrooms
Cydney has been researching the mushrooms and has found that the two best/easiest types to grow are Button and Oyster mushrooms. Because of the consistent warm temperatures that are needed, they would have to be grown inside, however this means that they could be grown year-round. They could be located in classrooms, or in a locked cabinet outside the Living Lab door (or really anywhere). They would need dark plastic bins to be grown in and would have to be misted with water every other day. Collecting spores for planting is really easy. You just turn the mushroom cap upside down on a piece of paper and put a cup upside down over it. You leave it there for a period of time (several hours I think). The resulting stain on the paper is the spores. You then just cut up the paper and bury it in the soil and you are done. Pretty cool.

Chickens
Cydney also investigated the possibility of chickens further. I won't go into all the details here but it is still a possibility in the future however probably something we would need to get a grant for and that we would need to get approval from the school to do.

That is all I can remember. If I forgot anything, please let us know.

STH Meeting - February 24, 2016

posted Feb 24, 2016, 7:08 PM by Kristina Fernandes

Attendees: Vanessa McGrath, Ann DeKruyff, Kathy Schnair, Krissy Fernandes

Topics of Discussion: This evening we continued the conversation from the previous meeting and also got our newer attendees up to speed.

Everyone was on-board with the grade-level approach.  It was suggested that we run the plan for which plants to assign to each grade by the teachers before we finalize.  This way they have the opportunity to request a different plant if it fits in better with their curriculum.

We talked a little bit about the opportunities for communication in the STH garden.  The bulletin board was installed last season, but not really used.  This year we would like to put information about the garden in it:
  • Map of the garden (with indicators for which ones are reserved for classroom activities)
  • Information about Seed to Harvest (how it got started, this year's goal, how to volunteer, contact information)
  • Garden rules (pick only what you can eat, don't stand on beds, don't pick from reserved beds, etc.)
  • Information about how plants grow
  • Garden sponsors (we hope to expand this this year)
We also talked about the bed signage and other opportunities to put information about the plants around the garden.

We signed into the Farmers Almanac garden planer and looked at the garden layout.  We talked about some of the maintenance that will need to be done this year:
  • Thin out the strawberry bed
  • Finish assembling the potato planter
  • Thin out the raspberry patch and find someway to prevent weeds and leave a walking path
  • Amend the soil in almost all beds with compost and more soil
  • Fix the stone paths to reduce weeds
  • Give the tire seats a fresh coat of paint and re-cement the one that popped out
  • Attach the greenhouse gutters to the rain barrels
We will continue to add to this list as things come up.  We also talked about some of the more immediate things that had to get done:
  • Purchase potting soil and pots so that classes can begin planting seedlings
  • Seedlings need to be planted between mid-March and the end of April
  • Shade cover needs to be put back up in the Living Lab
  • General Garden clean-up (raking, turning over soil, weeding)
  • Pick up the soil, compost and manure for the gardens (Kathy and Vanessa have access to trucks that we can use)
By having each classroom plant the same thing, we are going to wind up with a lot more plants than we can use.  We talked about having a plant sale to get rid of them in the community and make a little money to pay for some of the needs this year.

On the topic of the grade-level and general curriculum, we discussed the types of things that should be built around each plant:
  • Fact sheets about the plant
  • Activity sheets (at least 3) that are grade-level, or are targeted more toward grades K-2 for the general areas.  Activities should be in the following areas: plant facts (growth info, nutrition, etc), literacy writing topics, and math topics).  Ideally we will be able to get some feedback from the teachers on ways to build activities that fit in their existing curriculum.
  • Experiments (at least 1)
  • Books that fit with the plant and grade-level
  • Craft project
We also discussed asking Ms. Lanagan if we can have a section in the library dedicated to books about plants and gardening.  We can donate our existing books to the library and have them tagged so that they can be checked out.

So far, based on everyone's schedules, Tuesday during the school day seems to be the best time to meet, so we will start scheduling the remaining committee meetings for the season.

If I forgot anything, we will add it in as someone remembers.


STH Meeting - February 23, 2016

posted Feb 23, 2016, 5:44 PM by Kristina Fernandes

With snow in the forecast for today, it is hard to believe that the garden season is about to begin.  A few Seed to Harvest volunteers got together today to kick it off with a little planning.

Attendees: Krissy Fernandes, Cydney Hodder, Debbie Knapik

Topics of Discussion:

2016 Goals: Since the last two years focused a lot on larger projects, such as the greenhouse, the goal for this year is to maintain the existing gardens and work to further the Seed to Harvest activities.  We will develop grade-level activities, crafts, and curriculum centered around one plant per grade.  The plan is to have each grade plant something in the Spring that would mature and be ready to be picked in the fall when they move up to the next grade.  There will also be several general topics (lettuce, radishes, worms, mushrooms, etc) that any grade can take advantage of.

Resources Needed: In order to achieve this goal, we will need volunteers in the following areas:
  • Grade-level planners (K-4 and ACCESS) - Volunteers work with grade level teachers to schedule planting and activities and get their input on how their garden can be best incorporated into the existing curriculum (math, circle time, writing topics, etc).  Grade-level planners don't have to develop all the content themselves.  The general curriculum resources and the rest of the group can be used to assist.  Multiple people can own a single grade.  The commitment is for one school year.  The 2016 commitment would be for the Spring only and will focus on the development of activities that can be repeated in future years.

  • Grant Writer: Volunteer(s) to look for School Garden grant opportunities and write grant requests based on the current year's goals and utilizing previous grant requests.

  • Garden Planner: Volunteer(s) to own creating a garden maintenance schedule (when do seedlings need to be planted, when do they need to be transplanted, how often does weeding have to occur, what soil amendment has to happen, etc).

  • Volunteer Coordinator: Volunteer to recruit and coordinate volunteers for activities.  Room parents should be used as a resource to find help with Grade-level activities.

  • General Curriculum Creators: Volunteers who would like to research topics, create work sheets, or plan activities.  This is a great opportunity to parents who are educators, have a passion for the outdoors, gardening or nutrition, and who would like to volunteer on their own time.

  • Summer Activities: Volunteers to plan and host one or more of the Seed to Harvest summer activities.  Many of the programs can be repeated each year as we already have the supplies needed (i.e. Bike Wash).
Plant Plan: we discussed the types of plants that would work well at the grade level and for general purpose.

 Plant     Planted By Harvested By Plant Date Harvest Date   
 Flowers, Sunflowers Kindergarten   First  
 Fall Crop (Kale, Brussel Sprouts, Cabbage) First Second  
 Carrots Second Third  
 Pumpkins/Squash/Gourds Third Fourth  
 Potatoes Fourth Kindergarten  
 Sugar Snap Peas General   
 Green Beans General   
 Lettuce General   
 Cucumbers General   
 Herbs General   
 Peppers General   
 Garlic General   
 Onions General   
 Beets General   
 Radish General   
 Swiss Chard General   
 Blueberries General   
 Fungus* General   

* Cydney has volunteered to take ownership of the Fungi.

The planting and harvest dates will be entered soon.

The next meeting will take place Wednesday, February 24 @ 7pm at Krissy's house.  Future meetings will be planned out over the next week for the remainder of the season.







April 6 - Seed to Harvest Meeting

posted Apr 7, 2015, 5:09 AM by Kristina Fernandes   [ updated Apr 7, 2015, 5:12 AM ]

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Attendees: Krissy Fernandes, Cydney Hodder, Linda Aber, Maureen McMahon, Kathy Cappellano, Vanessa McGrath (we hope you are feeling better Rebecca)

Meeting Agenda:
  • Finalize teacher survey
  • Review STH financials
  • Assign owners for the start of season activities
Finalize teacher survey
We started off reviewing the teacher survey.  Cydney Hodder did a great job pulling the questions together on the Greenhouse/Living Lab.  Krissy took the questions and put them in a Google Docs form along with some questions regarding the existing STH Garden.  The survey was sent this evening and can be viewed at: http://goo.gl/forms/LVAjMeuJqW.  Preceding the survey email was an update on the 2015 STH season.

Review the STH financials
The STH financials were reviewed.  Because the greenhouse and elevated garden beds were upgraded (for sturdiness and quality) the NEF funds have been exhausted plus another $500.  We made a list of the remaining must have items and agreed that we should keep the cost of those to $500 or less.  The must have items include:

  • Soil (we will need about 2 yards to fill the elevated garden beds, build up the existing beds, and fill the potato bins and possible two new beds out back)
  • P-Stone (we need about 2 yards to fill the bottom of the greenhouse and build up the paths between the beds out back to decrease weeding maintenance)
  • Rain Barrels (we will need 2)
That leaves the budget as follows:

NEF Grant: $4,000
Wholefoods Grant: $2,000
PTO Budget: $428.75 (amount left of $600 annual budget)

Greenhouse (and shelves): $3,076.10
Elevated garden beds: $1,475.00
Must have expenses: $500

Amount left for 2015 season: $1,377.65

We talked about trying to leave the PTO funds untouched an roll that into next year (need to confirm with Chris Scully that this is ok).  The remaining roughly $900 can be used to purchase the nice to haves such as learning equipment for the Living Lab, and outdoor chalkboard for the classroom area, cattle fencing panels as archways between beds for climbing vegetables, garden craft supplies/brick border, etc.  We decided to wait until we get the results of the teacher survey to priorities and make decisions on what to purchase.

Assign owners for the start of season activities
Vanessa had to leave early, so we decided to assign everything to her :)

But really, we made a list of the highest priority tasks and took ownership.
  • Schedule "Garden Opening" dates and recruit volunteers.  Includes setting up a Sign-up Genius form to allow people to commit to attending.  We discussed scheduling two days (one after school and one on the weekend).  The tasks that we would like to complete are weeding what is left from last year, adding soil where needed, edging the rear flower beds and adding mulch, edging the berry bed and digging up weeds or transplanting herbs, raking, and lining flower beds with more rocks.  Owner: Linda Aber
  • Organize STH Classroom: Seedling Planting.  Includes sending Sign-up Genius to teachers and then coordinating volunteers (also through Sign-up Genius) for scheduled dates/times.  Owner: Cydney Hodder
  • Weed out flower beds.  Owner: Maureen McMahon
  • Investigate care of blackberries and raspberries.  Also, transplant some strawberries to berry garden.  Owner: Kathy Cappellano
  • Get the STH garden sign and message board installed.  Owner: Krissy Fernandes

Aside from the agenda topics above, we took a look at our seed stock (we don't need any more at this point), the new watering cans for the kids ($1 each at Christmas Tree shops) and reviewed the Garden Plan (on Farmer's Almanac).  Cydney started a list of items to go looking for at the salvage yards.

We also went over a few things from the last meeting.  First, Metrowest Irrigation has been scheduled to come out and service the sprinklers on Thursday, May 7 between 2:30 and 5:30.  Krissy will be there but has to leave at 4:00.  Maureen will be back up if they aren't there by then.

Next, there was a limited number of greenhouses left in stock of the model we wanted.  Krissy worked with the NPS accounts payable department and they were able to expedite the signing and creation of the PO.  We were able to send it to the vendor today and the greenhouse should be shipped by Wednesday of this week.  This means that we can start putting it together over April vacation if anyone is looking for something to do :)  Kathy also offered to see if we could schedule help from Keurig's community volunteers (we should see how quickly we can get their help).

Finally, we discussed where to buy the soil and stone from.  We may be able to get a discount from Weston Nurseries.  Kathy is also going to investigate pricing from Windy Low.  We would like to keep the costs for all must haves to $500.

Oh, one more thing.  Corey Dehner has offered to donate a compost tumbler and we have happily agreed to take it off her hands :)

That is all I can remember (I really need to start writing this stuff down at the meeting).  If anyone recalls anything else that I missed, please let us know.

I think we probably don't need to meet again until after April vacation.  What is everyone's availability the week of April 27?

March 26, 2015 - Seed to Harvest Meeting

posted Mar 30, 2015, 8:01 AM by Kristina Fernandes   [ updated Mar 30, 2015, 8:09 AM ]

Attendees: Krissy Fernandes, Rebecca Hall, Cydney Hodder, Linda Aber, Maureen McMahon, Kathy Cappellano

First off, thank you Maureen for the delicious homemade chocolate-chip muffins!

We started the meeting by reviewing the grants won and the budget left for the year.

NEF Grant: $4,000
Wholefoods Grant: $2,000
PTO Budget: $600 (Some of this was used in the fall)
TOTAL 2015 BUDGET: $6,600

The NEF Grant is pretty much spent already.  We are just waiting for the vendors to be created with the town and then the greenhouse and elevated raised garden beds will be ordered.  We just got the notification that the WholeFoods grant funds check has been mailed out.  We will make a list of desired items to add to the garden and then prioritize where we want to spend that money.

The program priorities for 2015 are:
  • Build the Living Lab in the school's courtyard (STH will be most involved in the initial build out.  After the space is ready, the teaching staff will be able to sign-up the space similar to how they would reserve the computer lab.  Teachers will be responsible for maintaining their own projects.  STH can use some of the greenhouse space to grow plants for the community garden.)
  • Plant and maintain the Seed to Harvest community garden.  This year the priority will be on planting more of the popular veggies and grow them well.
  • Add a trough style sink so students can quickly wash up after garden projects.
  • Add seating in the garden (did not get to this last year).
  • Install garden sign and message board.
  • Add more learning opportunities in the garden.
  • Continue the planting and garden craft activities for the classes.  Try to focus each grade/class on a particular plant in the garden.
We brainstormed a quick list of the most popular veggies that we want to plant.  We tried to focus on those that are able to be harvested in the spring or fall so that students get the most exposure. A "Garden Planning" spreadsheet has been created on the Seed to Harvest drive to continue refining this list.

Spring Harvest
Lettuces (arugula, romain, iceberg, sulu, mortel, dandelion)
Edible flowers (pansies)
Radish
Herbs (scallions, lavender, basil, cilantro, etc)
Strawberries

Fall Harvest
Carrots
Potatoes
Broccoli
Cauliflower
Brussel Sprouts
Artichoke
Asparagus

Favorites/Other
Sugar Snap Peas
Green Beans
Sunflower
Rainbow Flower Garden
Raspberries
Blackberries
Tomatoes
Cucumbers
Chinese Vegetables (Bok Choy)

We have decided to subscribe to the Farmers Almanac Garden Planner ($25/year) to make planning easier this year and in years to follow.


Since we have some extra money to spend this year, we also started a list of things it would be nice to have in the Living Lab or community garden (this list is also in the Garden Planning spreadsheet).
  • Compost tumbler (to replace the existing compost bins)
  • Watering cans (smaller to make it easier for kids to use)
  • Trough sink
  • Food scale (2)
  • Microscope
  • Ph/Soil Testing kits
  • Magnifying glasses
  • Collection baskets (WholeFoods?)
  • Worm farm
  • Potato boxes
  • Weather stuff (i.e. rain gauge, wind instruments, thermometer, barometer)
  • Fencing for raspberries
  • Trellises
Other to do's that we discussed:
  • Document the set-up and break-down instructions for the garden and living lab
  • Schedule taste-testing (lettuce party?  WholeFoods chefs?)
  • Thin out the strawberries (move to berry patch - on second thought, it probably is best to leave the large bed for the fall crop) [Kathy]
  • Investigate trimming back blackberries/raspberries [Kathy]
  • Contact MetroWest Irrigation to schedule turning on the sprinkler system [Krissy]
  • Weed out the fairy garden [Maureen]
  • Survey teachers regarding garden priorities for this year [Cydney]

A shared Pinterest board has been set up so that we can share ideas for the garden and activities.


There was a lot of conversation, so hopefully this captures the most important parts.  Let's plan on meeting again this week to continue the conversation/planning.  We will have to get the seedling planting schedule to teachers by early next week.  If you are able to make it, lets meet on Thursday again.  This time, let's meet at the school so that we can walk out to the garden.

Seed to Harvest Meeting
Date: Thursday, April 2, 2015
Time: 10:30 - 11:30 am
Location: Ben-Hem Teacher's Work Area

The goal of this next meeting will be to finalize the planting plan, assign owners to different tasks, and determine purchase priorities.

March 21, 2014 - Seed to Harvest Meeting

posted Mar 22, 2014, 6:24 AM by Kristina Fernandes   [ updated Mar 22, 2014, 6:32 AM ]

Garden History/Overview
We went over a brief history of the Seed to Harvest garden (founded in 2012 by Maureen McMahon and Kathy Cappellano) and its goals.  Thanks to previous efforts, we have 10 raised beds, a large berry bed, two flower beds in the front, and irrigation system, and a shed full of tools/supplies.  A good place to start!

Garden Priorities
Since Maureen and Kathy have moved on with their students to Wilson (they will still act as advisers), our first priority will be the actual maintenance of the garden and ensuring that there is a sustainable process in place for years to come.  Other projects will come after this depending on the volunteer resources available.  A few of the things we'd like to accomplish this year are:

* Garden Maintenance (planting, harvesting, weeding, etc)
* Garden Signage (official Seed to Harvest sign at entrance and possible message board)
* Add Seating
* Generally making the garden more inviting and a destination for students/families (add color, fairy garden, pavers, etc)

Another priority is to work with the teachers to get the students more involved in the garden.  Opportunities will be presented to the teachers and will be executed on an "as requested" basis.  More informal opportunities will be presented to families throughout the spring/summer based on volunteers available.  See the Teacher Survey/Classroom Involvement section below.

Volunteer Management
We are going to continue to request volunteers to sign-up for blocks of time (week increments) to own maintenance of the garden throughout the season.  We will add a maintenance checklist in the shed so that we can keep track of which items were completed each week.

An email group (sth@benhempto.org) has been created to easily reach out to those who have volunteered to help with the garden.

Seed to Harvest Board
This year, the PTO has decided to change the structure of its 3 top committees (Cultural Arts, Seed to Harvest, and AEO) and have a board of several volunteers (parents, teachers and community members if applicable) to oversee the committees rather than a single person.  The purpose for this is to ensure that there is more knowledge retention as families "age-out", to spread out the work load, and bring new ideas into the groups.  We will start forming the Seed to Harvest Board as the season progresses with the goal of having a team in place by the fall of 2014.

Planting Plan
We have a preliminary garden/planting plan based on what worked well in past years and a few additional plants based on teacher feedback and recommendations from the Natick Grows group.  The plan can be viewed on the PTO website on the Garden Planning page.  A full list of the plants (with varieties) and planting schedule will be emailed around to the STH volunteers next week for any feedback/changes.  The goal is to have this plan finalized by the end of next week so that we can start planning the classroom seedling plantings.

Teacher Survey/Classroom Involvement
The PTO sent a survey to all teachers in March to get their feedback on a number of topics.  A few questions were asked about the STH garden and how teachers would like to get their students involved this year.  The results have been posted to the Garden Planning page.  The summary is that many classrooms would like to get involved.  Depending on the volunteers available, we will be looking for people to help coordinate with teachers (possibly have one person assigned to a grade or two) and maybe even go into the classrooms to facilitate the project/program.

Garden Seed & Supply Drive
We have a number of perennials planted in the garden beds (tulip/daffodil bulbs, herbs, berries) and a number of vegetable seeds.  We will need to get seeds/plants for the rest of the vegetables/flowers in the plan.  We may also have a few supplies that we will need.  We thought that we should start by having a Garden Drive asking families if they can donate an item on our "Wish List".  Then we can purchase anything left over with the funds in the PTO account (we have about $100 left for this season).  We will have to start the drive soon to ensure we have everything ready for the start of planting.  Would anyone like to volunteer to run this?  We can look through the shed during the April 4 Garden Clean-up (or sooner) to come up with the list.

Garden Infrastructure/Improvements
One of our goals this year is to add seating and make the garden more colorful and generally inviting.  Kathy Cappellano's husband is an engineer and his company will pay their employees to do volunteer work.  We have reviewed a design and were thinking of putting in bench seating in the center-back of the garden.  The bench would have tree trunk legs with wooden planks (that we could paint in bright colors) on the top.  Depending on what resources we can get our hands on, we could possibly add seating for up to 25-30 kids.

For more informal seating throughout the garden, we were thinking we could bury old tires (that again we could paint in bright colors).  I called over to Direct Tire and they said that they could donate as many tires as we need (I was thinking 5-10).

Another area to be addressed is the space between the garden beds.  This area is difficult for the maintenance crew to cut the grass and it often looks overgrown/messy.   Maureen donated some pea gravel last year.  We were thinking we could put down some weed barrier cloth and then lay the pea gravel (and maybe some pavers made by students - again made with bright colors) between the beds.  We have a 25% discount a Gardener's Supply and can get the weed barrier there.

Other ideas were to add a long potting bench along the left wall for student activities (maybe even add a garden sink for washing hands), adding flower beds under the painted panels on the back wall, edging out the berry garden and flower beds, adding more rocks to the borders, etc.  The possibilities are endless!  We will prioritize based on resources available.

Next Steps:
Friday, March 28 - Finalize Planting Plan by end of week

Monday, March 31 - Friday, April 18 - Classroom Seedling Planting

Friday, April 4 - Garden Clean-up Day
12:30 pm - 3:30 pm (or whenever people need to leave)
* We can use this time to assess the available supplies in the shed and develop a list of needs.

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