You might have seen bumper stickers saying kids need to know about farms and where their food comes from. The question arises on how do we get kids interested in playing in the dirt for something more than making mud pies? Perhaps the easiest way is to be on the lookout for kids in your neighborhood and ask them if they would like to learn how to grow flowers or vegetables. Ask their parents to get on board too. Then start showing them the magic of how a little bitty seed becomes this amazing gift that not only can feed many but provide hundreds of new seeds to start it all over again. Tell them they can help grow vegetables for their parents to put on the dinner table and start them out with something simple and easy to grow like a salad tray.
|Salad growing in a bushel basket|
Of course it’s harder these days to interact with kids especially if you are a male gardener. This makes it more important than ever to get the parent’s permission for the kids to come over and help in our gardens. Schools are more like locked down prisons these days than what I remember, making it quite a challenge to interact with kids in school, but it’s possible and a great way to reach several in one session. There are two programs I have learned about recently that open the doors to getting kids in the garden. One is the Restaurant Association of Maryland Education Foundation (RAMEF) and Chefs Move to Schools (CMS). I have reached out to RAMEF as a chef to mentor high school kids on cooking and hope to include vegetable gardening. With the farm-to-table craze gaining ground most new professional cooks want to know more about vegetable farming.
|Kurt's backyard veggie garden|
Chefs Move to Schools is working on improving kids diets by eating more fresh fruits and vegetables. They also welcome chef volunteers to teach kids about where their produce comes from. While most of the focus is on working in the kitchens with the school’s cooks I was glad to see that CMS wants kids to know more about vegetable and fruit growing and encourages chefs to teach kids about growing veggies. I hope to get a local school to let me come and teach about backyard veggie growing. I could definitely use some help if anyone is interested in joining me as I am not an expert on gardening.
In the four years I have been growing veggies in my small back yard I've had three kids from next door enthusiastically helping. Some years they are more into it than others and I welcome their help whenever they are willing. It’s so rewarding to send them off with veggies in their little hands for their parents and grandparents that they helped grow and harvest. When you bring a bit of pride to a child it helps build self-esteem and everyone wins. Nothing quite like earning self-esteem than having it handed to you. Last week brought a new boy in my garden to help with my seed planting. It was great to hear from his mom that he had a fun time and wants to come back soon. From that session another neighbor’s kids saw what we were doing and now they want to come over to help. Kids talk about these things with other kids and that will help gain momentum.
I encourage you to find a way to start something that brings kids into the natural world of growing food, flowers, trees and shrubs. We will all benefit from it for years to come if we are successful.