EVERY DAY I see people shine. I see so many “aha” moments; light dawning in someone’s eyes, and it makes me grin. ‘Cause they just changed forever. LOVE LOVE LOVE seeing that.
In a nutshell, Food Action teaches gardening and cooking. Our goal is to help create a community where healthy, local, sustainably produced food is the norm for everyone. At first that was overwhelming, but now I’m down with it. I figure Go big or go home. Look, we may never get there, but I can’t see the harm in trying. It’s like the old riddle, remixed: How do you eat an elephant-sized zucchini from the garden?
The same way you eat anything else. One bite at a time. 🙂
So here’s a nibble. We coordinate Patchwork Farms, a collective community farm with raised beds, a greenhouse and fields. I toured some 10 and 11 year olds around Patchwork and it was a blast.
First we headed into the overgrown raspberry patch (badly needs pruning) to pick some berries, I thought they’d pick a couple handfuls, get bored, and want to move on. I explained how Carmen, my co-worker, picked tons of raspberries and took them to OK Boys & Girls Club for healthy snacks. One kid immediately piped up and said “Mike goes to Boys & Girls Club!” and they all oohed and ahhed. I told them we’d send more if they were picked. That instant of personal connection must’ve sparked something, because they waded through the prickly raspberry patch for a good half hour or more.
When we could finally pull them away from berry picking, we took them over to “The Lab”, our container gardening area. Sounds a lot more official than it is. This year’s experiment is growing stuff in cardboard boxes, big pots, and five gallon buckets. We’ve got potatoes in boxes and they’re the closest thing we have to a veggie harvest during this tour, so that’s our next stop.
I’ve got a leftover seed potato, so I show that first. It’s kind of wizened and sprouting and doesn’t look much like a potato any more. The kids are skeptical. So I show them the boxes and what’s growing out of them, the potato leaves, a couple flowers. We talk about why we mulch them, how potatoes grow. Then we rip apart one of the boxes to see what’s inside.
“Here’s one!” “Is this one?” “Let me see!” We pull out one big potato and a bunch of tiny ones. (Dammit, too soon. Oh well.) We rip open another box. This time, after they get all the new potatoes, a kid grabs the seed potato. “Is this one?”
I’d been waiting for this, because I remember very well the first time I harvested potatoes and found the seed tuber.
Grinning, I hold up the whole plant and show them how the leaves sprouted out of the dried up old potato. How the roots spread out underneath. How the little potatoes are connected to the plant. They were awestruck.
“Where can you get those seeds?” one asks.
“At any nursery,” I answer, “or sometimes you can get some from another gardener. If you buy local potatoes, you can save some to plant in spring. You just need a box & some dirt.”
They were so excited they had to open another. And look at everything more closely, spread out on the ground.
WAY COOL, if I do say so myself.
We only got 16 potatoes – not much impact on overall food security, I guess.
But eighteen kids who know how to grow potatoes?
I’m hoping that’s making a difference.
Plus we got potatoes. 🙂