Next Generation Gardeners

Reader Contribution by Heidi Hunt
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Last evening, I trooped out to my now-mostly-defunct vegetable garden to pick a handful of basil to add to the tomato sauce pot, bubbling on the stove.

I stepped into the garden and was startled when a voice came from the sidewalk, behind the tomato cages, “Are those green tomatoes?” the voice asked. Two middle-school-aged boys were hovering at the fence. I asked if they liked to eat fried green tomatoes. They assured me they did. So I picked a handful of the small green fruits and threw in a couple of ripe ones for good measure. They grinned all over.

I told them I was making spaghetti sauce and all of the ingredients – tomatoes, onion, garlic, basil and oregano – had been grown in this garden. They were amazed that I could do that – especially grow my own garlic. I showed them where some little garlic sprouts were peaking out of the soil and said they would be ready to dig next summmer.

One of the boys, looking at the ground, said, “My mother used to like to grow a garden.” His expression warned me against following up with a question about his mother and her gardening habits. I offered them a basil leaf to taste – they seemed to really like the flavor.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how to get kids in my neighborhood involved with gardening. At this point, there is no community gardening space within walking distance of my house. But I firmly believe that if we want to have healthy people and a healthier planet, then we need to involve children in the process. I asked the boys if they would like to plant a garden next spring. Their eyebrows flew upwards and they simultaneously said, “Yes!” So, next spring I will find a place for them to garden, close to their home, and we will plant tomatoes. It is a beginning.

Photo by iStockphoto/Thomas Shortell