Gar­den­ing with kids: Gar­dens can feed your body and soul

Ontario Gardener Magazine - - CONTENTS - By Ta­nia Mof­fat

If your gar­den is like mine, there comes a point where you won­der how one plant can pro­duce such a bounty of fruit or veg­eta­bles. Usu­ally it’s zuc­chini, this year it was cu­cum­bers. There was a point where one plant was pro­duc­ing over 50 cukes per week!

“What are you go­ing to do with all this stuff,” Des­mond, my youngest asked me in awe when ev­ery inch of counter, ta­ble and a fair amount of our kitchen floor space was filled with the veg­eta­bles we had picked that day.

“Well, we’ll freeze some to en­joy in the win­ter, make pick­les and sauces, de­hy­drate some and share some with friends and fam­ily, and peo­ple who don’t have enough fresh food to eat,” I replied.

An over­abun­dant har­vest is nor­mal at our place and we make use of what we can, but there is al­ways more than we can han­dle; I make sure of it. Gar­den­ing breeds a sense of com­mu­nity, and we grow more, since we have the space. We share with fam­ily mem­bers who do not have gar­dens, with friends and co-work­ers, our day­care, fam­i­lies in need and char­i­ties. It is a heart-warm­ing ex­pe­ri­ence to be able to share and a valu­able les­son for the kids to learn.

“Why don’t peo­ple have food to eat?”

Kids are of­ten sur­prised that other chil­dren and fam­i­lies do not have enough food to eat, es­pe­cially in their own com­mu­ni­ties. They don’t un­der­stand how things like job losses, ill­nesses and a mul­ti­tude of other rea­sons af­fect peo­ple’s in­come, time or abil­ity to grow a gar­den or eat fresh fruit and veg­eta­bles. What they do un­der­stand is how im­por­tant it is to eat healthy food. We’ve been teach­ing them this their en­tire young lives. But, what we some­times fail to teach them is that for many peo­ple this is a lux­ury they are not able to en­joy or af­ford. Shar­ing pro­duce from your gar­den is a great way to teach chil­dren about hunger and it makes ev­ery­one feel good.

Once chil­dren are aware of a need they are al­most al­ways will­ing to jump on board to help. If you have ex­tra pro­duce, or have grown ex­tra pro­duce for a “grow-a-row” pro­gram, get them in­volved. Ask them for ideas on how to share food with those in need. Cre­ate a dis­cus­sion and make it part of your gar­den­ing ef­forts ev­ery year. You both can reap the re­wards of shar­ing and learn­ing fun ways to give back to your com­mu­nity.

Here are a few ideas for shar­ing: Take part in a grow-a-row pro­gram: Th­ese pro­grams en­cour­age gar­den­ers to grow-a-row for those in need in their com­mu­nity. A quick Google search should un­cover one in your area. For great shar­ing in­for­ma­tion check out this grow-a-row ju­nior web­site growarow.org/par­gar_jr/ par­gar_jr.htm

Fruit share pro­grams: Too many ap­ples, plums or other fruit? Look for a fruit share pro­gram in your area. Vol­un­teers will come out, pick your en­tire tree, leav­ing you with some and tak­ing the rest for vol­un­teers and char­i­ties to use.

Se­nior's res­i­dences, day­cares and schools: Why not send a bas­ket of cherry toma­toes, a crate of ap­ples or ap­ple muffins to your child’s school or a lo­cal se­nior’s home, just be­cause? Healthy snacks are al­ways wel­come for the chil­dren, and se­niors who used to gar­den will truly en­joy fresh pro­duce. If you plant flow­ers why not bring a fresh bunch or two for the cafe­te­ria as well?

Lo­cal zoo: Many zoos will take pro­duce for the an­i­mals. They gen­er­ally pre­fer stock that will keep, such as root veg­eta­bles and squashes. You can check to see if they still take ap­ples, some zoos have stopped due to the overzeal­ous do­na­tions they were re­ceiv­ing.

Soup kitchens: Most lo­cal soup kitchens will al­ways ap­pre­ci­ate any type of fresh do­na­tion.

Lo­cal barn: Too many ap­ples or have sev­eral dropped from your tree? Why not see if a lo­cal barn is in­ter­ested in some horse treats. Only do­nate fruit that is bug/dis­ease free and just bring enough to last a day or two if the fruit has been bruised.

Make a thought­ful gift: Bake ap­ple or pump­kin pies and drop one off to all your friends and neigh­bours for the hol­i­days. Make pick­les, salsa, rel­ish or jams for ev­ery­one, or store them for teacher’s gifts.

Do­nate to a fall sup­per: Many com­mu­nity or church or­ga­nized din­ners rely on the kind­ness of vol­un­teer and food do­na­tions. Do­nate some ap­ple pies or veg­eta­bles for the meal.

You don’t need a large gar­den to teach chil­dren how care about the world around them. When you en­cour­age them to think of ways to share, their ideas may just sur­prise you.

“Our veg­etable gar­den is a siz­able 45 feet by 65 feet. When I tell peo­ple this they of­ten ask me why I plant such a large gar­den. The rea­sons are as plen­ti­ful as my crops.”

Taeven proudly bag­ging a veg­etable or­der.

Cousins and grand­par­ents col­lect­ing our veg­gies.

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