In a world filled with processed foods and a constant barrage of fast food commercials…small groups of parents are fighting back in the war to get kids to “eat their veggies (fruits too)”. The current “crop” of children has largely lost touch with where their foods come from. Even “fresh” fruits often come encased in cellophane!
My take on this situation is that most of the last one or two generations of parents stopped growing their own produce. Food science captured the minds of the many more than Mother Nature. So sad, but don’t let it bum you out. Times are surely changing! There is a whole new interest in the origins of our foods. Better yet, that interest spans many generations.
Just head to your local farmer’s market to see the “blooming” interest in quality, local foods. People, young and old are asking farmers the difference between Tuscan Kale & Curly Kale. Bakers are introducing consumers to breads made with ancient grains and baked in stone ovens. Meat and seafood purveyors are educating hungry families on the benefits of grass-fed meats or sustainable fish.
Even pizza has been swept up into the farm to table movement!
Some families are taking things a bit further, yet staying closer to home at the same time. That’s right, backyard edible gardening has returned! Growing your own is even trendy and fashionable in some parts of the country.
Here on the DIY Backyard Farm we believe in making edible gardening a family affair. Our 6 & 8 year-old backyard farmers have their own little 4’ x 2’ raised garden beds to care for. Each child is responsible for selecting and taking care of the plants they wish to grow. Our son loves salad and grows lettuces and tomatoes exclusively. Our daughter calls beets “The Candy of the Garden”. She grew four different varieties of them this year. Both kids know where their foods come from and they sure do eat their fruits, veggies and fresh herbs.
We are suburban parents with kids who are subject to the same advertising and peer pressure as the majority of our population experiences. However, our kids have a love and respect for their food that is far beyond their years. In fact, they often outwit many adults when discussing different types of edible plants. For example, my kids recently told one of my adult friends all about Cacuzza. This is a really interesting Italian squash that our Nonna prepares into a fabulous sauce.
We did not hypnotize our kids or force them to help us in our edible gardens. Their own curiosity drove them in just the way mine did 37 years ago. All we did was encourage them to explore(safely). Of course, they have to be old enough to grasp some basics and garden safely. Ours began exploring the gardens as early as age 4. Here is how we engaged our kids with edible gardening:
1) Explained the growing process: planting the seeds, watering, tending to young plants and harvesting
2) Allowed them to have their own edible gardens. They select the plants they want to grow (with some guidance to ensure success). This part includes allowing them to design their own garden plans (see below).
3) Help them understand the basics of garden care
4) Get creative with cool plant identifiers, building trellises, etc
5) Let them select veggies, fruits and/or herbs for a meal
6) Select age appropriate books on fruits, vegetables and herbs
Of course we always make sure to Have Fun and watch them to ensure they are safe
It is hard to quantify the health benefits my kids are getting from their organic, produce heavy diets. However, it is generally well accepted that diets with sufficient amounts of fruits and vegetables are healthier than diets filled with processed foods. Just not having to fight with them at meal time is benefit enough!
If you want to start your own backyard edible garden and do not know where to start then I recommend my easy to follow DIY Backyard Farm Edible Garden Planning Guide. It even includes garden planning worksheets and sections to take down notes.