Engaging Children In Agriculture: 5 Reasons Gardening Is Great For Kids
It’s late June, which means that things are in the hot simmer of summer at Engage Space Farm: vegetables are growing, projects are finishing and starting left and right, the humidity is rapidly rising. Lately, my niece N. has been joining me in the garden. She’s 8 years old, smart, sassy and interested in growing things.
Why is it important to get kids engaged in agriculture?
- Although urban growing culture is super trendy right now, on the whole we are becoming increasingly disconnected from where our food comes from. Most of what we buy in the grocery store is industrially farmed, harvested and sent out on large trucks across the country. Learning about where food comes from, and how will help kids (and adults) make better choices about what foods to purchase and consume.
- There is nothing like the pride of picking that first ruby red tomato and declaring, “I grew this!” Becoming more involved in growing their food makes kids more likely to want to eat it. I found this to be true when I started cooking and baking with N. She hates eating a lot of different things, but when we spent an hour one morning baking an apple tart, she totally went out on a limb and had several bites.
- Learning to share responsibility in a communal task is important for kids at every stage. Larger-scale gardens, like the one at Engage Space Farm (though ours is nowhere near some of the huge gardens/farms I’ve been to) require many hands, which means that N. is a part of a team, and we are each responsible for the health and care of our plants. As we grow to add animals, like laying hens, ducks and mini sheep, she may also share in some of those responsibilities.
- A garden is an ever-changing laboratory, with infinite bugs, animals and changeable weather conditions to learn from. There is always a new lesson, from learning the different names of plants (and which plants are friends/which are enemies), to learning the impact of a heavy rain, to exploring the process of composting.
- Working outside, digging in the dirt, literally connecting with the natural world is good for everybody. There are even microbes in the soil that trigger a release of serotonin in your brain! And, you receive a hit of dopamine whenever you see the literal fruits of your gardening labor: a perfectly formed cucumber growing on the vine, or picking that first zucchini. (x) We were meant to be gardeners!
Of course, I would be remiss in writing this article and ignoring the fact that thousands of children in the US alone don’t have a choice in whether or not they work in the fields. Children employed to work on industrial farms are exposed to toxic chemicals, poor conditions, are increasingly likely to drop out of school “and die at 4 times the rate of other working youth.” (x) More than anything, growing our own food helps us avoid supporting these practices.
- Learn more about GROW and Engage Space Farm
- Kindergarten Gardening: What Kids Learn
- Gardening Teaches Kids Life Skills
- Why Gardening Is Good For Your Health
- USDA for Kids
Founder/Director Callie Garp has a Masters of Fine Arts degree from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts and Tufts University. Keep up with Callie here.
This article and accompanying photographs were edited & prepared for publication by Callie Garp.