Learning on the fly: the garden experiment

Garden art for kids by kids

You might well wonder if I’ve changed the focus of my blog from school lunch to school gardens. I haven’t, though I think they can and should be intimately connected. What better way to talk to kids about the politics of food, healthy eating, the environment, etc. than getting them involved in growing their own eats?

And as I’m deep in the throes of spring enthusiasm about gardening, I can’t really help myself.

For me, there’s something profoundly pleasing and meditative about digging in the ground. I was so focused on planting my own garden this weekend that I happily did it in the rain on Sunday (hearing today that doing so may lead to root rot…).

Getting started in my veggie patch

Of course, one of the other amazing things about gardens is how you learn as you do it, making lots of mistakes (see above) along the way. It’s a wonderful lesson for children—not to mention adults.

And, it turns out, learning on the fly isn’t just for amateurs.

I was delighted to read that The Stop Community Food Centre’s Urban Agriculture guru (and all-round awesome woman) Rhonda Teitel-Payne came to her job 13 years ago with little gardening experience. She was a social worker and the agency was expanding into gardens as a tool for community development. Her knowledge of how to organize and support people living in poverty was more important at that moment than having a long history in horticulture (she acknowledges that things are different now with so many people interested in urban agriculture and social justice there are college and university courses on the subject). She learned (a lot) as she worked in The Stop’s 8,000-square-foot community garden, its greenhouse, sheltered garden and especially by talking to the people—volunteers and staff—who worked with her.

The point, I think, is that gardening is a process. It’s about learning to be patient and feeling free to experiment, talking to lots of people and learning as you go. I hear a lot of people say they have a brown thumb or they don’t know anything about gardening so they don’t want to get involved in the school plot, but there’s really no better way than to dig in and give it a whirl.

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