Will Workman is a writer, illustrator and teacher. He writes about gardening, travel, art, motorcycling and the outdoors. He lives in Williston, VT.
Young gardeners put transplants into a school-based garden.
Food gardening is on the rise. We believe it's important to make a bigger effort to expose children and adults to the joys and rewards of gardening. Here's what we've been up to nationally and locally to encourage and support young gardeners:
The Green Thumb Challenge is a nationwide initiative to give school kids gardening experience. The program provides teaching materials and resources, and offers a substantial $5,000 prize for the best garden. Launched just three years ago, the Green Thumb Challenge is already approaching its goal of 10,000 youth gardens — the largest youth gardening initiative in history. Gardener's Supply is proud to support this initiative with both financial backing and product donations.
The Green Thumb Challenge is a program of the Green Education Foundation, a nonprofit organization that empowers educators with the resources they need to promote healthy lifestyles and environmental awareness.
Members of the Kids Club fill Grow Bags with soil.
Participants in the Healthy City Youth Initiative
In April of 2011, we started the Kids Club at our garden centers in Vermont. Our goal is to create events that initiate and foster a life-long love of gardening in children. What's more, "the Kids Club is about building relationships," says Sandy Cunningham, who coordinates the events. "Families feel at home with us whether they are here for a Kids Club event, or just shopping on a Saturday afternoon." Each of the free monthly workshops focuses on a single topic, such as seedstarting, composting, garden bed preparation and planting. Learn more about Kids Club.
The Healthy City Youth Initiative is a hands-on, farm-to-school program designed to teach basic cooking and gardening skills, increase physical activity and promote healthy lifestyle choices.
The heart of the program is the Healthy City Youth Farm, a half-acre plot at Hunt Middle School in Burlington, VT. Each year, 380 young people experience the spring and fall garden education program.
During the six-week Healthy City summer program, incoming high school students weed and harvest the Youth Farm as well as school gardens throughout the city. Healthy City staff and interns reach further into the community, providing garden-based activities at summer program sites and public housing sites.
The best part is what happens to the produce. Through a partnership with the Burlington School Food Project, fresh vegetables from the Healthy City Youth Initiative are served at cafeteria salad bars, harvest dinners and school-wide taste tests. That means hundreds more kids get to experience delicious, fresh-from-the-ground food and develop better eating habits.
The Healthy City Youth Initiative is so effective that is was recently named one of America's Top 10 farm-to-school programs by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Gardener's Supply is proud to have sponsored the Healthy City Youth Initiative since its inception in 2002.
Interviews with Bonnaroo attendees in 2010.
Where did you learn to garden? Dad might have taught you to ride a bicycle or change the tires on the car. But when it comes to the lifelong enjoyment that comes from gardening, it appears from our research that mothers deserve most of the credit.
A team of employees from Gardener's Supply took a trip to Bonnaroo, a four-day, eco-friendly music festival in Tennessee. The team's goal? To gauge attendees' interest in gardening. We were surprised to find that many young people were not only interested in gardening, they were already doing it, and some were very knowledgeable. When we asked them where they learned to garden, most said they learned from their mothers. Thanks, moms.
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