Sow a Garden for the Future

| February/March 2006

 Planting a connection between children and the earth may seem difficult in today’s world of video games, computers and DVDs. Generations away from the farm, many children today don’t have a connection with soil and seed. Gardening can help re-establish that connection, and much more.

“Most people don’t know where their food comes from or the joy of working with the earth, and that’s what we hope to instill in [the participants] when they’re young,” says Frank Wertheim, founder of the educational children’s gardening program Kids Can Grow (KCG) and extension educator of agriculture with the University of Maine cooperative extension.

In addition to supporting future farming and gardening, programs like KCG and gardening at home can help children develop a strong sense of community, responsibility and generosity. “Gardening teaches kids that they can do something. They can accomplish growing food. Part of the reason [KCG] is so successful is because they get that sense of ‘This was mine and I did it.’ It gives a sense of accomplishment and self-confidence,” Wertheim says.

From Seed to Harvest

Children can find a sense of wonder in gardening that doesn’t exist anywhere else — and one they might not even have known existed until they get in the garden and see for themselves. “When we first put in the herb bed here and the herbs started growing, the kids were so excited to see and smell the different herbs,” Wertheim says. “It’s such a kid-friendly, touch-friendly experience. The kids have even less experience with herbs than with vegetables.

It opens up a whole new world to them to be able to have their own garden and pick and smell and taste and touch.”

And while the KCG program is limited to 7- to 12-year-olds, you can start much younger children planting seeds of their own. “You’ll do a lot more of the work yourself, and their attention span may not be as long, but if they’re willing to listen and learn, they can garden,” says Susan Tkacik, KCG volunteer and master gardener. “If they put that seed in themselves, and later it comes up to be a sunflower, that gets some excitement,” Wertheim adds.

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