How to get kids into gardening: Guest post by Kurt Jacobson

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

 If I find a small farm to buy into working with RAMEF I’ll have a perfect match. The farm needs labor, and the cooks-to-be need to learn more about growing vegetables. Pair them up and you have a win-win situation. A cook that has a direct relationship with a farmer has a leg up on their competition for the best produce and happy customers. The farmer gets a new customer that buys all or most of certain crops. One of the signs of a well-run farm-to-table restaurant is a chalkboard or menu mentioning the farmers and small batch producers the restaurant gets their supplies from. Woodberry Kitchen is a great example of this practice with their chalkboard showing menu items and where some of the ingredients were sourced. This leads to more awareness in our farmers and helps preserve our small farms and maybe even plants the seeds for future farmers.

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.

8 Comments on “How to get kids into gardening: Guest post by Kurt Jacobson

  1. In Howard County, we have a youth education program aimed at 3rd and 4th grade students called “Kids Container Gardening”. We teach kids how to grow vegetable in in containers and send them home with a lettuce plant in a 6 inch pot. We also encourage school vegetable gardens growing cool season vegetables.
    The program has worked well, encourage many children to talk there parents into starting container or in ground vegetable gardens.

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  2. I absolutely love the idea of including children in gardening. I went to a seminar laat June on easy garden plants for toddlers. It's fun and easy. The workshops are tremendous too. Here is the place to check this out, it's a yearly event
    http://www.onlineplantnursery.com
    Garden Delights

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  3. I really appreciate the idea we should make aware our kids about good and bad and including children in gardening is also a beneficial idea; it helps to improve their way of thinking towards environmental condition and make them learn how to keep our environment clean and green with growing organic gardening. It is simultaneously helps to improve organic eating habits and also the value of foods in life.

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