Last summer we were very blessed to receive a plot in a community garden in the area we wanted to live. At the time we were living about 40-60 minutes away, waiting and hoping to be able to move. The plot cost $20, it was the best money I spent all year!
My children came to me terrified of nature. Sadly, I think they were like many children, completely disconnected from the natural environment, from where their food came from. They knew the names of maybe 2 or 3 fruits/veg (though to be certain my son had never eaten any!) and didn’t know, for example, their beloved chicken nuggets were from chickens. There was a lot of work to be done. But when I thought about the how, I decided a gentle approach would be best. I had already drastically changed their diet – both becoming vegetarians, eating 3-4 fruits and 4-5 vegetables a day, as well as lots of legumes and protein rich foods. And truth be told, despite my son looking at the plate put in front of him for the first week or so and trying to explain to me that this wasn’t actually food (his three “foods” he ate before adoption were: cheese pizza, chicken nuggets, chips and chocolate milkshakes, or chocolate milk to drink! I kid you no, that was actually his diet!), I’m amazed that after getting them involved from day one with cooking and preparing, we had little issue. But the real reason I knew a gentle approach was needed with the garden, was they were very scared. Grass, mud, soil, bugs, weeds, plants -all frightening to them. They would run screaming in the other direction if they even saw soil. Worried they’d get dirty, or there would be bugs. And here we are, 10 months after that first day at the community garden, and my two are planning what we are planting this year, and they are not-so-secretly hoping we’ll become farmers.
So what did we accomplish with the plot? Well, a good friend invited us last Easter weekend to plant some seeds in pots. We chose radishes because they would grow quickly and hopefully inspire. And that worked Next, we began with the plot. My approach was to simply show them seeds and have a couple of little hand shovels they could use as they wished – they wished not in the beginning ;). But slowly after I had dug the holes, they began throwing them in. Only they threw them in so quickly, before I could jot down what they were doing, that our garden became a bit of a surprise! lol Which actually made for a whole lot of fun and learning. Not only did we not know what was growing where, we then had to identify it. In the end we had kale, carrots, peppers and radishes. I know we definitely planted a couple of pumpkins, but they didn’t grow. There was probably a lot else that didn’t grow too.
But, a miracle of sorts occurred. My children became passionate. Truly passionate about growing your own, supporting farmers, being vegetarians, fairtrade and the local movement. We began volunteering at an organic vegetable farm and that helped them really understand what it meant to support local produce. We shopped at a market, a fairtrade shop, a food co-op and a local bakery, and instead of asking me each week why we don’t just go to that big superstore that begins with a W, like their previous families did, my daughter in particular began saying how special it made her feel to know the person who was actually making her food. And pretty soon, my son followed suit. Sadly, now, one of our bakers closed down her business, and we can’t pass their previous location without my son saying how upset it makes him that people didn’t buy directly from her.
And this year is year two of community gardening with children. And not only do we have the same plot, which I just paid for (best $20 I’ve spent so far this year, too ) but we are now local and I’m getting involved in helping with the garden which is a great feeling. Truly great feeling. I am not a natural gardener. I don’t know what I’m doing. I’m surprised at how much I lost over the last 12 years as, while I did not grow up in a family that supported local farmers/agriculture etc., I did one year have an amazing veggie garden. I think all the academics, a bit of trauma and a busy life have made me forget everything I learned that year. But I’m now learning again, with my children.
So this year, not only are we planning what we are growing (purple peppers, yellow carrots, lemon cucumbers and so much more!), but we’re also planning to do more in our own garden. Our garden needs major work, as it was “shrubbed” to be no work for the previous owners. I can’t afford to do it this year, so I think it will simply be a matter of container gardening and saving up for a few years for grass etc. Anyway, this year I’m going to set myself some goals to do more to become self-sufficient. I’d rather we spend our evenings this summer in the community garden or on our deck with the containers, than pretty much anywhere else. My children have completely inspired me to believe that this path I was on before, is exactly the right one not just for me, but for us too.