Five Reasons You and Your Kids Should Grow A Garden

The Spring's first strawberry is in
The Spring’s first strawberry is in

I have a garden. In it we grow things like broccoli, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, strawberries and spinach, to name a few.  My kids help me plant a little something here and cut off some veggies there.  Once when I was out of town on business my three children and wife took the opportunity to procure a rabbit from a nearby general store. I wasn’t real fond of the rabbit (which is why they waited until I was out of town).  Then I read somewhere that rabbit pellets are the gold standard for garden fertilizer.  Now the rabbit has a sweet little condo next to the strawberries.  I feed it some cabbage, cut up some asparagus stalk and it provides me with ‘the gold standard’.  We have a nice relationship now.

For me the garden has served as much more than just a place where we harvest fresh produce.  It’s a place where I can sink my hands in the dirt, look at the world on a much smaller scale and spend time with my family without the trappings of our life and a game controller.  It is a teacher and here are my five reasons why you and your kids should grow a garden:

1. A Garden Teaches Independence
The act of mapping out a garden, planning what to grow and procuring the materials for it is fun, but it also fosters creativity and independence.   Give your kid the opportunity to grow something and the responsibility to care for it.  They will be rewarded by ripe red tomatoes,  carrots they pull from under the ground and the sense of accomplishment that goes along with it.

2. Because Food Doesn’t Just Magically Appear
I think for many people, food has become an enigma.  When you want it, it can appear.  The truth is (real) food is something that is grown, raised and harvested with time, care and thought.  Many people are involved in that process. Not  understanding  this is a disgrace. Growing a garden helps us understand that food is a privilege and that it comes with the help of many things including the sun, water, soil and human interaction.

3.  Patience, Young Padua
Let’s face it, we live in a world where downloaded speeds can’t be fast enough and our attention spans have been reduced to 140 characters or less.  A garden works on its own time, with the elements, biology and perhaps a farmers almanac.  When I sow a seed, I might want it to emerge the next day, but it won’t. It takes time and that time teaches me patience.  Patience allows me the opportunity to notice my world around me, especially my family.

4.   Gardens Give You Something to Share With a Neighbor
I have a neighbor.  He is a plastic surgeon.  He has eight or so chickens depending on the coyotes. From time to time he will bring me a half dozen fresh eggs.  From time to time, I will bring him some fresh lettuce, kale and carrots.  It’s a nice business.  No money is exchanged just some niceties and a chance to connect with those around me.  The garden provides this opportunity to give to people what you have sewn.  My kids see this and I believe it teaches them the value of giving to others.

5.  The Garden is a Metaphor for Life
Our lives are complex and often stressful.  The garden forces us to get back to basics and ‘reset’ things at ground level.  Usually when our lives are off-kilter it is because our foundations aren’t being watered, and cared for.  When we tend to our personal foundations, the rest of our life tends to bear fruit.  In this way, the garden is kind of like food for the soul.

This morning, I visited the garden before I left for work.  I was greeted with the first strawberry of the season!  Both the rabbit and I were keenly aware of its emergence.  By growing a garden, my kids and I (and the rabbit) are all part of something simple but profound.  It’s given us a place to connect and an opportunity to learn about what is most important in life, us.  And that to me is the real ‘gold standard’.

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