Spring planning time for planting: Think students!

Published 10:00 pm Monday, February 29, 2016

Reaching into the earth and pulling out a vegetable can feel like a treasure hunt to a young person, especially our young people who have never experienced a garden. Whether you have a personal garden, a school garden or a community garden, March is the time to begin planning and working on them.

Growing a school vegetable garden opens the door for students to understand where their food comes from and why it is important to eat vegetables. Young people are craving healthy foods. I witness this truth every day in my work as a local food systems development entrepreneur. Studies have shown that youth involved in gardening will eat and choose more fruits and vegetables than youth who are not.

School gardens also nurture young leaders by helping kids to develop critical thinking skills, planning, and goal setting. As they enjoy the fruits of their labor in a literal sense, they begin to believe they can excel, no matter the advantages or disadvantages they may be experiencing in other social or system-based communities.

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In a conference I attended three years ago, sponsored by Polk County Community Foundation and with Carol Newton, former director of Thermal Belt Outreach Ministry and their ongoing dedicated staff, we focused on closing the hunger gap, food-based food banks and pantries, and fresh produce and fruits from on campus and community gardens going to the food bank recipients.

There was a break out session I attended called Youth as Agents of the Change. I learned tons and remember the points they made and the real-life outcomes that speakers shared with us. Growing a school garden can foster positive attitudes toward science, grow a strong sense of curiosity, and cultivate environmental stewardship among students and their peers.

A school garden transforms learning by engaging students in activities that bring the classroom curriculum to life. The garden is an integrative space where many subjects can be explored. A school garden transforms learning by engaging students in activities that bring the classroom curriculum to life.

For example, students can understand how plants grow and develop by sowing seeds and watching them change from sprouts to mature plants that bloom and turn back to seeds. And then there is all the delicious sampling and food preparations that they act out in between.

Math skills sharpen when planning the area. I love the social studies aspect of local food. Students can be exposed to the cultural practices within North Carolina and our rural growing traditions of the Southern Appalachians. This helps students develop a certain kinship to the historical and current relevance of local food systems and agriculture across our beautiful state.

Speaking of what grows beautifully and can be planned for starting March 1, our local list looks like this:  arugula, beets, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, chard, cilantro, dill kale, kohlrabi, lettuces, mustards, parsley, parsnips, peas, radishes, spinach and turnips.

Happy planning, happy planting!