Summer Youth: How Does Your Garden Grow?

By Amanda West

It has been more than six weeks since our Summer Youth kids began farming at the Autumn Woods complex. They had a tough job: though the ground had been broken and rows had been dug, the soil was clay and it was hard to break it up even after the initial ground breaking.

However, though they were planting vegetable seedlings that would eventually yield food, it was a leap of faith since they were the first to plant there. It was hard to visualize at first, but now as the plants are thriving.  They have invested so much time and effort, their interest in seeing this plot of land succeed, like the plants, has taken root.

Jasmine reflected, “The second week I learned what it takes to be a farmer. I experienced it all myself. It’s a lot of work to be done, but once you learn what it takes it’s not hard at all. I planted crop such as tomatoes, watermelon, lettuce and squash. I’ve tasted new vegetables and learned how they become vegetables before they are vegetables.”

The participants have realized how much hard work is put into making sure the produce thrives, especially when growing organically.  In some of their reflection essays written during the program, they commented on their experience with the farming process.

“I always wanted to have a garden when I got my own house,” wrote Cianna. “Now I have a chance to learn about the best way to do it. I was excited. Then I found out how hard farming is…but despite how hard it is, I still want my own garden.”

After one of the many recent rains, the garden got very muddy, and Kierra noted, “The second day I was mad because my shoes were so muddy and I hate mud. But I got over it.”

Diego said: “Farming takes a lot of work and a lot of time, but when the crop is ready to be harvested, its all worth it.” “All the plants we planted we had to prepare the soil first. We had to water the soil and add compost to it.”

And even if the bug to farm hasn’t bitten each participant, there is greater understanding about what it takes to grow food. Take ZullyKay, who remarked:  “In this program, I have done a lot of hard work. Now I know that when we buy things from the store I know that we take a lot of things for granted. Farmers do a lot for us, providing our food.”

When the kids were given an assignment to write to a perspective customer on why they should buy their vegetables, one participant, Cianna, wrote: “Instead of going the easy way out with the products that big companies use, I do all the work. I pull out weeds and kill the bugs that could harm the plants myself. I put all my heart and soul into making the best fruits and vegetables.” View her full essay here: Why Buy My Carrots by Cianna Foster.

Now, the zucchini they planted as a seedling is yielding fruit that use in their Monday cooking class.  Watermelon plants stretch and wind their way across the rows in the hot summer sun. Cucumbers climb up trellises. The tomatoes and herbs are burgeoning. The results of all the work is now evident.

Ray writes: “It’s a tiring job, but seeing the outcome is amazing. Watching squash and cucumbers grow is cool.”