Gardens Give Back: Green-fingered children take care of the community

Gardens Give Back: Green-fingered children take care of the community

Recent events at Hershorin Schiff Community Day School saw second-graders growing, harvesting and delivering fresh vegetables to local families in need. By learning how to cultivate kale, beets, blueberries, tomatoes and peppers, as well as different types of flowers, these lucky school children were given both the chance and the resources to give back to the community at a very young age.

Hershorin’s students were invited to participate in All Faiths Food Bank’s Sprout Mobile Farm Market program and its current initiative, the Campaign Against Summer Hunger. It hopes to provide enough food to feed the estimated 40,000 children who are on school-provided lunches in Sarasota and DeSoto counties during the summer vacation. While teaching the students about the practical art of gardening, raising their interest in fruits, vegetables and healthy eating, this particular activity also had the added benefit of developing the children’s sense of social responsibility.

Benefits of gardening for all ages

Naturally, gardening isn’t only an activity for the youngest among us. There are social, physical, emotional and dietary advantages to be had by all those who partake regularly in some form of gardening project. Dr. Robert Kluson, part of the Sarasota extension belonging to the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, is an advocate of what he calls “contemplative food gardening”. Rather than focusing on the healthy eating benefits of learning how to garden, Kluson’s ideas promote the sense of wellbeing experienced by the gardener when he or she is actually growing. He particularly highlights the positive feelings we have thanks to meditative time spent weeding and watering.

Many of us don’t have the time to commit to a regular scheduled workout. It can be difficult to juggle exercise around work and family obligations, to find a reliable childminder, or a class that runs at a convenient hour. As we get older and our bodies begin to ache more than we are accustomed to, the idea of going to the gym can also begin to lose its appeal. Gardening can offer an interesting alternative. Instead of treating mowing the lawn as a chore, we can begin to see it as a valid form of exercise.

Low maintenance plants for those with little experience

The good news is that you don’t have to be an experienced gardener to enjoy results. You just need to know which kinds of plants to begin cultivating; plants that are notoriously low maintenance are the best options for new gardeners. The yucca, for example, is a particularly good choice for beginners, as it’s a hardy plant that cleans the air, acts as a natural shampoo and is also actually really good for your skin. Cultivating the yucca at home is easy because it grows quite happily in a container on the porch or as a potted houseplant. Sunflowers, sweet peas and pansies are great first-time flower options.

With organic food products costing so much more than the standard equivalent, our diet and bank accounts also benefit from a little bit of home gardening. While an entire vegetable garden may be difficult, a small herb patch is more than doable. Rosemary is one the easiest herbs to grow, as it enjoys both sun and shade and can grow quite comfortably in any soil, as long as it isn’t allowed to get too wet.

So, let the children of Hershorin Schiff Community Day School be an inspiration to you and get your green-fingered hat on.

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Dr. Robert Kluson, Gardens Give Back, Hershorin, Hershorin Schiff Community Day School

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