Let’s Check on the Strawberries!

Taking my two kids to our community garden plot can sometimes feel like a monumental outing, despite the fact that it’s one block away from where we live. After a long day at school, they usually want to cuddle up with a book and bowl of Goldfish crackers, but if I’ve got kale on the menu for dinner, we need to venture out. Here are a few of my tricks to get everyone excited about checking out the garden.

  • A fun method of transportation. While our plot is only a block away, sometimes getting there is half the battle. The proximity makes it a great distance for a wagon ride. In the spring, when we were hauling plant supports and starts to the garden, we piled all the plants and small people into the wagon. Now, the wagon is great for hauling home a bucketful of cherry tomatoes, as well as little legs. Sometimes we’ll ride our bikes, but our plot is so close that we end up riding around the block a few times and then stopping at the garden.
  • My garden bribery strawberries. Quarter for scale.

    “Let’s go check on the strawberries!” This is what I say every.single.time I am getting my kids excited for a trip to the garden. We planted Day Neutral strawberries, which produce fruit continually throughout the summer. I’m always crossing my fingers the harvest goddess will come to my rescue and produce fruit in even numbers, because the math just does not work out to have one strawberry and two kids.

  • Their own produce bag. Allowing them to harvest hardier plants gives them ownership of the garden and what grows there. Sometimes my two year old puts green beans or tomatillos in her bag. Most of the time she collects wood chips and rocks.
  • Water-ready shoes and their own watering can. At ages 5 and 2, my kids think waterplay is the best summer activity ever. My 5 year old can fill a watering can and the kids will take turns watering the basil plants over and over again while I quickly cut kale for dinner.

The other day, as we toodled home with a full basket of garden goodies, my five-year old said, unprompted, “When you said ‘let’s go to the garden!’ I really didn’t want to go but I actually had a lot of fun.”

Do you have to cajole your kids to your community garden plot, or are they excited to see what’s growing?

Blog by: Beth Saunders

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Simple Steps to Starting a Successful Year in the School Garden

successful year in the school garden
 

top tips for a successful year in the school gardenIt’s that time of year again, when you realize the summer has flown by and school is just around the corner! Are you planning for a successful year in the school garden? Whether your garden has been a hub of activity for the past few months or perhaps left a little neglected while students were away, it’s important to begin thinking about how your growing space will fit into the new school year. 

While the start of school is undeniably busy (as are the weeks leading up to it) try to take the time to complete these five simple steps to help ensure that your school garden isn’t left in the dust. 

  1. If you haven’t already, begin planting crops for a fall harvest. If you want something that will be ready for young gardeners to pick right when they get back to school consider seeding a bed of radishes, which mature in 3-4 weeks.
  2. Celebrate your summer volunteers! Send out thank you notes or emails letting folks know you appreciate all their hard work. Ask if they’re willing to spend time in the garden throughout the school year. Are any of them willing to support classrooms interested in visiting the garden for educational activities? Your goal should be to keep these volunteers engaged and connected.
  3. Take stock of your garden situation. Set up a garden committee meeting (or consider forming one if you don’t have one already) to determine any garden goals or projects for the new year. Consider creating a plan of action or list of needs that you can share with the PTA, teachers or school administration.
  4. A new school year often means new students and families, and sometimes new school staff, so make sure to spread the word about your school garden. Consider including a short write up about the garden in the first school newsletter; not only will it introduce new folks to the garden, but help remind others about how they can get involved.
  5. Encourage classrooms to get outside! Depending on how bountiful (or weedy) the garden is, you might organize a school-wide garden work day as a way to tackle new projects or catch up on maintenance. Alternatively, facilitate fun activities, like scavenger hunts, that help students get reacquainted with your growing space.

 

Blog by: Christine Gall

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Growing Kids and Community on an Atlanta Urban Farm and Garden

Bobby and Cathy
Cathy Walker, partners with Bobby at the Atlanta Metro Urban Farm, can’t help but laugh as Bobby led us in a cheer and a song. Photo by Rob Cardillo

Nine years ago, Bobby Wilson retired from the University of Georgia (UGA) Cooperative Extension. While the norm at this time of your life is to dream of relaxation, staycations and travel, Bobby had a different idea.   He used his retirement funds to purchase a 5-acre plot in downtown Atlanta, a decision supported by his wife, Margaret, and his family.

He called it the Metro Atlanta Urban Farm, and it’s now the headquarters of The American Community Gardening Association (ACGA), which Bobby was a leader and past president.

While at UGA as a Cooperative Extension Agent, he worked with underserved area residents in urban areas. One of his favorite initiatives involved working with seniors, many who were scared to venture outside in their neighborhoods. He used the garden to get the seniors outside and engaged in creating urban garden plots. In the housing projects he visited, he became known as the ‘garden man’ and was left alone.

Bobby Wilson and Charlie Nardozzi
Bobby Wilson and Charlie Nardozzi are enjoying themselves at the farm. Photo by Rob Cardillo

“Retire?,’ says Bobby with a laugh, “I never thought of retiring and now I can work without getting bogged down in paperwork. Teaching underserved folks how to grow food has always been more than just about growing vegetables – you’re growing people no matter what their age.”

“We use our farm as a teaching tool and an empowerment zone. We want to give kids and people of all ages a sense of their worth and what they can do and that by focusing on something they can accomplish a lot for themselves and others,” continued Bobby.

So what kind of dividends has his retirement plan yielded?   Here’s a partial list:

  • 300 to 400 homeless are fed per month with produce from the farm through the Atlanta Union Mission
  • Site visits to churches and other nonprofits to help them identify garden leaders and sites to grow their own food with guidance from farm experts
  • Created the Metro Atlanta Urban Garden Leadership association as an opportunity to get urban gardeners together for gardening know-how, leadership, networking and problem-solving
  • 5,000 elementary school age kids per year visit the farm on fields trips to better understand the relationship between their food and the soil
  • Community service option for juvenile offenders. He’s now hired two of the kids who came from that program, as they’re not just working in the garden, but learning to cook, how to engage with others who may have different viewpoints and the value of teamwork
  • 500 children visit the farm’s seasonal festivals. They bring policeman to the event so children can meet and engage with the police in a friendly and safe space.
Visiting the Metro Atlanta Urban Farm
At the Atlanta 2017 Garden Writers conference, we visited the Metro Atlanta Urban Farm. Joined and photographed by Rob Cardillo
Left to Right:
Cathy Walker, Melinda Myers, Suzanne DeJohn, Maree Gaetani, Claudia Marshall, Karega McClendon, Charlie Nardozzi and Gabriel Gonzale.
Front and Center:
Tegan Hurley, Bobby Wilson

Bobby’s an example of how wealth should be measured – how you give back, engage with community and create meaningful change.

I’ve had the pleasure of knowing Bobby for about 20 years as an ACGA Board member and also had the opportunity to visit the farm last September at a Garden Writers Association conference.

All of us here at KidsGardening believe that every child should have the opportunity to learn through the garden and Bobby, Cathy, and their team only reaffirm our determination and passion for what we do. Learn more about the impact of getting more kids learning through the garden

PHOTO CREDITS: Rob Cardillo

Blog by: Maree Gaetani

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