By Farrah Alexander
WHEN MY HUSBAND ASKED ME WHAT I WANTED FOR MOTHER’S DAY, I WENT THROUGH THE ROUTINE SUGGESTIONS: “OH, NOTHING. JUST THE ADORING LOVE AND ADMIRATION OF MY LOVELY FAMILY.” OR “I DO WANT TO SLEEP IN, THOUGH.” AND, “MAYBE A NAP, TOO. ACTUALLY, JUST 24 HOURS OF SOLID SLEEP SOUNDS NICE.”
In addition to sleep, my husband asked, “What about a garden? The kids and I could build you a garden.” I was elated. I so badly wanted a garden, I had even purchased some weed-block and gardening items that sat unopened in our garage.
Mustering up the energy (see previous pleading for sleep) to do the manual labor part of building a garden hasn’t been in the cards for me this season yet. All the hauling dirt, tilling and building has been too much. But tending to a garden with my two favorite little people was something I really wanted to do this summer. So, my husband offering to do all the hard things involved in building a garden, and letting me stick to the fun stuff was a perfect gift.
I first became interested in gardening with children years before I had my own. I wrote an article about community and school gardens for a local publication. I was so amazed by how the garden changed the children’s perspective on personal responsibility, health and food.
These kids loved getting dirty and taking care of their gardens. They would pick offending weeds and check on the growth of their plants. The pride they took in the work they put into their gardens was obvious. They were incredibly knowledgeable about the entire seed to plate process, speaking with the experience of master gardeners.
After they nurtured their plants for months and it was time to harvest, they couldn’t wait to try their veggies. Most parents go through the daily dinner struggle of trying to convince their kids to try the veggies on their plates while the kids recoil and resist like you just asked them to eat dirt. But a kid who tended to a plant for months and watched the plants sprout colorful, edible veggies? It’s hard to convince them to even wait to wash their veggies before devouring.
Now we can get any fruits and veggies just about any time of year at our local grocery stores. We don’t have to wait until early summer for strawberries; we can buy strawberries in January! Most of the produce we see in stores aren’t locally farmed, and a lot of it actually traveled a long distance before it arrived here. Some of our most popular household staples, like bananas, weren’t even grown in this country. Instead, bananas and many other items are grown in the Caribbean, Mexico and elsewhere and shipped here.
It’s easy for kids to become disconnected with where food comes from given the complicated nature of how it gets here. Adults don’t typically know exactly where their produce comes from, either. But with a garden, kids can eat food they grew in their own backyard. The disconnect is eliminated.
In fact, there are absolutely remarkable benefits for children who garden. There have been a number of studies showing that children who participate in some type of gardening program either at home or at school
• showed a significant increase in self- understanding and an ability to work with others
• have positive bonding experiences with their parents and other adults
• are more likely to ear fresh fruits and vegetables
• scored higher on science achievement tests
• showed an understanding of ecology, interconnections in nature, and responsibility to care for the environment
• develop an interest in gardening that is likely to be lifelong
Plus, it’s great for parents to get outside and work on something with their children. It’s fun to be able to involve your kids in cooking dinner and gathering fresh ingredients you grew together. Last year, I just had herbs in small pots outside my door. I loved going outside with my son to clip some and then add those to the dinner we cooked. I found he was much more excited about dinner and more prone to try new things if he was involved in the process.
If you’re interesting in gardening with your kids, it can be incredibly easy and simple. You don’t have to tear up your yard and make a huge garden. Our area is great for growing tomatoes, which can be grown in containers with the cage included. Super easy! No planting even required, just watering. Herbs are always very easy and can be grown in small containers.
To make it even easier, you could even go outside your home and get involved in the gardening process. Many area schools have gardens and probably love when parents volunteer to help tend to them. There are small community gardens in both New Albany and Jeffersonville.
Huber’s is a huge, beautiful farm in Starlight. On their website, they have a picking schedule. Depending on the date, you and your children can pick strawberries, zucchini, green beans, apples, peppers and eventually pumpkins. You can ride out to the fields on a tractor, fill a box with freshly-picked produce and then check out at the market when you’re done. My son loves picking strawberries and then making strawberry bread when we get home.
You can even just check out one of the wonderful farmer’s markets in the area and get a chance to speak with the farmers who harvested the food you’re about to eat. Then you get to have delicious, local produce without any of the dirty work.
Whatever works for you and your family, try some locally grown food this summer.
IF IT’S SUNNY, YOU BETTER GET OUT AND TAKE ADVANTAGE BECAUSE THE NEXT DAY VERY WELL COULD BE RAINY, FRIGID, SWAMPY HOT…