Charles demonstrates and explains two methods of clearing weeds to grow vegetables, without digging soil or removing any weeds or soil. Mulches were applied at his Homeacres garden during the past 6-12 months, and you see the results: crops taken, while soil is being cleared of weeds, some of which were vigorous perennials.
‘It’s more than just selling 50 cent peppers. It’s connecting families and kids and food and the environment.’
At Little Ones Learning Center in Forest Park, Georgia, outside of Atlanta, the young students do typical preschool things. They work on spelling and draw interesting creations, but they also get to play and learn in an amazing garden.
The garden originally started as an outdoor learning environment for kids who needed to get out in nature for a little bit.
“It was a place for children who were having hard days,” Little Ones Executive Director Wande Okunoren-Meadows tells MNN. “I know I go stir crazy if I’m sitting indoors for a long period of time. ‘You’re having a hard time inside? Let’s go outside, play in the dirt and find some worms.'”
Eventually parents got involved and the garden truly bloomed. Now kids grow squash, beans, radishes, bell peppers, watermelons and all sorts of greens, while also learning how to compost. Then on the first and third Wednesday of the month, they set up a produce stand where they sell their homegrown fruits and vegetables to parents and people in the community. Farmers from the West Georgia Co-Op also bring produce to help supplement what’s offered at the small stand.
The school is located in parts of Clayton County, an area where many people can’t afford fresh produce, so they offer steep discounts (two-for-one) when customers use food stamps.
‘It’s like shutting down a kid’s lemonade stand’
The garden-to-farm-stand movement helps the kids learn about the environment and love their vegetables while also assisting the community.
“It’s more than just selling 50 cent peppers,” the school posted on Facebook. “It’s a wellness movement. It’s connecting families and kids and food and the environment.”
Okunoren-Meadows points out that the school isn’t located in a food desert; she says it’s more like a food swamp.
“What’s available is crap. It’s lots of tomatoes that look like they’re on steroids. The cucumbers are humongous. When a child is looking at one of our carrots, they say, ‘It’s so tiny, what’s wrong with it?'” she says.
“We have to tell them that what they’re seeing in the store isn’t normal. There’s the whole education piece and teaching them to be environmentally aware. There’s learning patience and being appreciative. It touches on so many things. It’s about getting healthy food into the community, but so much more.”
But in early August, the city shut down the farm stand, saying the residential area wasn’t zoned for selling produce.
“Anywhere you live, you’ve got to have rules and regulations,” Forest Park City Manager Angela Redding told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “Otherwise, you would just have whatever.”
School administrators were surprised when they were asked to close up shop.
“It’s like shutting down a kid’s lemonade stand,” Okunoren-Meadows says. “Nobody does this. It just shouldn’t happen.”
Hoping to change the rules
The kid farmers and their teachers have been forced to move their organic fruits and veggies inside, where the lower visibility has meant a big drop in sales.
Hoping this will be a temporary setback, the school administrators and parents have led a call to city officials to change the rules.
Okunoren-Meadows went to a City Council meeting in early September where she and more than two dozen supporters asked leaders to amend the law while speaking about the importance of the program.
So far, the city has only offered to allow the school to sell its produce in a different city-owned location. But it’s outside the school’s neighborhood, away from the community school leaders want to serve. The school also was offered the chance to pay $50 for a “special event” permit each time it opens the farm stand.
The city argues that if it changes the ordinance, there could be a farm stand on every corner. Okunoren-Meadows highly doubts that would happen but, if it did, that would be a good thing.
She says that the school only sells about $150 worth of produce each time the stand opens. After paying school employees for their time, the stand loses money selling 50-cent apples and 50-cent tomatoes.
“We don’t generate any income off it. It’s a labor of love,” she says.
She suggests that perhaps the city could make exemptions in the farm stand ordinance for educational facilities. Although no decision has been reached, she’s optimistic that the farm stand will be back up and running soon.
“According to the United Way, Clayton County has the lowest child well-being index out of all the metro Atlanta counties,” Okunoren-Meadows says. “So if we’re trying to move the needle and figure out ways to improve well-being, I’m not saying the farm stand is the only way to do it, but Little Ones is trying to be part of the solution.”
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Now is the time to learn about what are the BEST Vegetables to Grow with Kids this year in your garden. We are excited to share with you the our top picks of vegetables for gardening with kids.
Becky of Kid World citizen, master teacher, talented writer and expert in Global Education is our guest writer today. She has a fabulous backyard garden and her kids are willing to try new vegetables for dinner because of it.
It’s just about that time of year to end this miserable cold (finally) and start enjoying spring weather and thinking about what vegetables to grow with kids in our gardens! Gardening is the ideal outdoor learning experience: playing in the mud, learning about underground ecosystems, watching our plants grow with sunlight and rain and some tender care, and getting the gratification of growing a food that we can eat at the end of the process (and maybe even trying something new!). If you’d like to get your kids more involved this year, here are our best veggies to grow with kids.
VEGETABLES TO GROW WITH KIDS: FASTEST GROWING FOR (ALMOST) INSTANT GRATIFICATION
Kids want it, and want it NOW! All of these choices will germinate from seed in just days when you add water and sunlight, giving kids a chance to see how crooked or straight their seed lines were! What about spreading the seeds in the form of their initial? What’s great about these three choices is that you can pick and eat them while they are still young, shortening growing time even more.
VEGETABLES TO GROW WITH KIDS: MOST PROLIFIC VEGGIE FOR RAW MUNCHERS
3. Herbs (try mint, lemon balm, parsley, or chives)
One of the best part of gardening is being able to eat raw veggies straight from the plant. To be honest, I don’t remember ever being able to pick enough snap peas to actually make them because my kids eat the entire harvest from the vine before I even get to snap a picture. Cherry tomatoes are a given, because varieties nowadays produce fruit the entire growing season (65-85 F during the day, and nights should be above 55). As for herbs, mint grows, and grows, and if you’re not careful it can take over your herb garden! That being said my kids think it’s cool that they can walk by and grab a leaf to eat. If your kids don’t like mint, try parsley or chives, or even lemon balm for a sensory blast every time you walk past it.
VEGETABLES TO GROW WITH KIDS: BEST CHOICE FOR THOSE WITHOUT A GREEN THUMB
If you are looking for the absolute easiest to grow- meaning you forget that you even have a garden- look no further. My green beans have been re-seeding themselves for years and grow like a jungle with little care. Asparagus sounds challenging, but it is incredibly simple. From the snowy Midwest to tropical Houston, plant it once, and it will grow in the same spot every growing season for 20 years! Potatoes are so easy it is almost a joke. I once sent my 5 year old out to the garden with a container of forgotten purple potatoes from Whole Foods that had gone bad, forgotten in the back of our pantry. I told Ricky to plant them and I honestly forgot he had done so for a couple of months. We went out to prepare our garden in the spring and found the ground peppered with TONS of purple potatoes that had grown during our mild winter!
My kids adore our backyard garden. There are so many benefits to spending the time, money, and efforts to starting a garden with young children. This newest Garden Classroom resource will amaze you with the simple, easy to prepare hands-on activities in math, science, literacy, and art that you can do with your child to help them learn and grow while spending time outdoors.
Cathy James has gifted me with this amazing resource, so that I could share it with you! THANKS! She is a hands-in-the-dirt kind of teacher that is always inspiring me to take our gardening to the next level.
Learning and Growing with Kids in the Garden
Often, we overlook the learning potential of a garden. Yes, the benefits of gardening are numerous: from the natural produce harvest from the garden to the life lessons in responsibility. But a garden can also take art, reading, math, and science and truly bring academics to life.