Gardening with Children
Do you want to know how to get your kids to eat more vegetables? I know one sure way to do it: get them out in the garden growing
food! As many of you know, I run an organic farm with my husband in Vermont. Our children have been by our side by choice since they were babies. They rode in a back pack, sling or simply on my hip. They sat and crawled down the rows. I set them up with snap peas to gnaw on with their toothless gums and sweet strawberries to eat so I could pick as fast as I could to gather food for our customers. Being surrounded by vegetables their entire lives has taken the mystery out of vegetables that some kids might shun….kale, Brussels sprouts, beets, Chinese cabbage. They’ve seen the plants grow from seed to seedling to flowering and fruiting plants! They’ve participated in the growing at every level. Hard to believe, but just yesterday my five and eight-year-old were in the potato field hoeing the weeds and they lasted happily for about two hours!
Then I let them go. They play near the gardens. They make up games in the shade and the tall grass. They roll around and laugh. And when they’re hungry? Well, they skip to the garden for some snacks…edible weeds if the produce isn’t quite ready. They pick leaves off the greens and onions growing. They always find something scrumptious to satisfy their hunger so they can get back to their games. Keeping the gardens a fun place for them, helps to keep them interested in helping and eating the wide variety of produce we grow.
We’ve always planted crops that interest our children…sweet corn, pole beans on teepees, sunflower houses, small fruits. This year we went a step further: we started a Children’s Garden at the farm. This is where visiting guests learn about growing food and participate in planting, harvesting and eating. Children from a year old up to
16 have helped us plant in the past 3 weeks. It’s also become a gathering place for our family and crew. At one end, in our “tasting room”, under the table is a fire pit that my beautiful, creative daughter built. She dug the hole and placed all the stones herself. So we gather here for food, music, laughter, and some relaxing fun! Right in the garden!
No matter how much space you have to grow, draw your children into the planning and planting. Think of a theme garden to plant in a window box! Decorate a pot for an in-house herb garden. Grow celery from the base you cut off from store-bought celery. Try to grow a pineapple from the pineapple top. There are lots of ways to get your children growing food and tasting new things. And remember, you can always come out to the farm!