How to nurture young people so they grow into their potential
WE RECENTLY attended a wonderful event, Sunset Symphony in the Sunflowers. It was held on a cane farm and was a celebration of local food, music, dance and culture set among a field of sunflowers. It also was an opportunity to learn more about the work of cane farmer Simon Mattsson.
Sunflowers on a cane farm?
After a research trip to the US where he learned about the benefits of companion planting for improved soil health and the minimising of fertiliser and pesticide use, Simon decided to experiment with a similar idea for his cane crop.
On his return, he started planting crops such as chickpeas, soybeans and sunflowers alongside the cane. Sunflowers grow quickly into large, robust plants offering shelter from the sun to the young cane plants and keeping weeds to a minimum.
Once fully grown, the sunflowers are ploughed back into the soil where they release valuable nutrients, which contribute to the improved soil health, and Simon has been able to demonstrate similar benefits to those he saw in the US.
So in this case, modern farming practices can benefit greatly from old-fashioned companion planting.
It gave me an idea for a lovely metaphor.
Like soil that has been over-farmed, many regional communities have become barren areas for young people, often leading to boredom and disconnection.
Like the young cane plants, they can be at risk when at their most vulnerable stage of growth.
What if these communities could be revitalised and nourished through a leadership group of individuals of all ages who, like the sunflowers, could nourish and cultivate a healthier environment by nurturing, protecting and standing tall alongside the younger community members?
Many communities have agencies and organisations that exist to help the more vulnerable groups or individuals.
Yet, especially for some age groups, more is needed.
In the absence of healthy role models and mentors within their immediate circle, maybe there is a case for this type of companionship approach while they are establishing their roots, growing stronger, making healthy connections and becoming resilient.
And once the seeds of this model have been sown and communities are growing more resilient individuals, then perhaps the benefits from that could be transferred into other communities so that the regions can become more stable and start to thrive again. Just planting an idea …
Maybe we can take a leaf from old farming techniques to help our children grow into happy and resilient adults.