Youth Gardeners Sprout Up Across the Nation

UrbanFoodAmerica, a blog which reports on programs across the country that promote building a community food system, recently posted about RootDown LA. This Los Angeles-based program serves the community through the development of herb and vegetable gardens which are maintained by the area youth. UrbanFoodAmerica describes how RootDown LA creates a new local economy around produce by having two missions: create a demand for local food, and then supply it. In order to stimulate demand, RootDown LA coordinates CSA (Community-Supported Agriculture) programs as well as farm stands and community cooking classes. The supply side is handled by the local youth, who are directed on how to produce foods for the community. These youth install garden plots and plant fruit trees in the area, while developing job skills.

When I read about this organization, the story hit home for me… literally; Burlington offers a similar program! The Healthy City Youth Initiative, developed through a partnership of the Burlington School Food Project and Friends of Burlington Gardens, is a 6-week summer program for high schoolers to learn about horticulture and sharpen their gardening skills. In addition to growing food on an area farm, the students help to maintain school garden plots about the city. Past projects have included gleaning – harvesting produce that would otherwise rot – from area farms to collect about 30,000 pounds of produce each year!

I admit I am new to the Burlington garden scene, and I only know the basics about the Healthy City Youth Initiative. From what I have read so far, I wonder if Burlington could learn a thing or two from the crew at RootDown LA. How well are students getting connected with the entrepreneurial side of growing food? I spoke with an intern who worked with the program this past summer, and she emphasized the communication skills students develop by selling the program’s produce at farmer’s markets. These teens learn quickly about the foods they grow (and even begin to take favorite veggies home to their families!). The teens are new to many of the foods they grow, but perhaps this experience inspires them to learn more about farming. Could this be a breeding ground for our next generation of master gardeners and farmers?

WP 2/23

Planting a Blog that Blooms…

I am new to the blog world, so it’s time to take note from those that have come before… I am choosing to write about children and gardening from an uncommon angle: personal reflection of my time spent observing and volunteering with a local outreach organization. I hope my unique angle will give me an edge, but it will also require me to clearly establish the purpose of this blog for you, the reader.

First off, how do I attract visitors to this site visually? During my search of other gardening blogs, I came across one with a hideously memorable WordPress template, which I immediately recognized from when I had searched for my own blog background. This blog was unattractive to me for two reasons: 1) I know the pattern was slapped onto the blog form the WordPress templates with minimal thought put into site appearance, and 2) the pattern is busy and distracting, which makes the blog look disorganized.

For my own blog, I plan to gather some gardening or outdoors pictures of my own which you now see as the background of my site. One of the most attractive blog sites I found from dirtgarden used a picture of daisies as a header against a black backdrop for the home page, with text floating on top. These are the kinds of details that intrigue me to linger long enough to read some of the blog content.

The pictures I place on this blog can play a big role in describing the function of my site. My first thought for pictures is to provide images of growing gardens or maybe children’s little fingers in the dirt. In many cases, similar blogs may provide these kinds of images, but they usually avoid posting their own faces in the garden. Perhaps bloggers avoid posting images of themselves so the author appears more distanced from the subject and thus more objective and unbiased. But hold on: my blog is about participating and not just observing, and I know I influence my environment. That’s fine! I plan to include images of myself among the pictures I post because, while this blog is an exploration of children’s gardening, it is contaminated by the observer – ME!

The purpose of this blog is not to provide marketing strategies for blogging, but a thoughtful blog is a wise investment. I hope my observations and lessons learned from the blogosphere serve us all well in our missions to be heard.

WP 2/23