“Class, anyone know what a garden is?” Mostly, I get apprehensive looks, but suddenly one 4 year-old shouts, “it is where things grow!”
This morning I led a group of 4 year olds around the SAGE (Starker Arts Garden for Education) garden with Corvallis service member Amoreena Treff. Everything is so new to them. Their eyes were wide as we felt and smelled lemon balm and rosemary. They laughed in delight at two pumpkins bigger than them. Students got to rip off Lacinato kale leaves to taste. We grazed through the tomato rows, walked through the corn maze, and stopped where we could nibble along a row where broccoli was flowering. We led them over to a row of beets to show them how some plants grow underground. I didn’t think they’d have the strength, but was proven wrong when all at once, on the count of three, each preschooler pulled out a beet of his or her own from the ground.
Over at the tasting table, I enjoyed watching the kids’ revelations that thinly sliced raw beets turn your fingers, tongue, and teeth red. Most pleaded for seconds. Sometimes, on these occasions, the adult chaperones’ revelations can be more rewarding. For example, one father exclaimed that his slice of raw beet tasted like a mushroom, but sweeter, with an earthy tone. He said he’d only ever had pickled beets from salad bars but was now excited to try fresh beets at home.
At the end, when asked what students thought of the vegetables we tasted, one blonde girl raised her hand. “My favorite was the bumpy-looking one” pointing to the kale. “It tasted good.”
Last year, I served as a garden educator in Tillamook, Oregon with a wonderful non-profit called Food Roots. I taught children daily, hearing adorable quotes just like this, weekly. I probably learned just as much from the kids as I actually taught! My role this year as the FoodCorps Oregon Fellow is to help Oregon’s service members become the best garden educators they can be. At our state orientation this year, all five members co-taught grades K-5 about healthy eating. Group teaching was incredibly useful as they could learn from watching each other teach.
As Oregon’s Fellow, based at the Oregon Department of Agriculture, I counsel our service members and visit school gardens all over the state. My visits to FoodCorps sites–participating in activities like these field trips–are precious. I get to see first hand, FoodCorps Oregon’s broad impact and am reminded how important it is to be involved in exposing children to healthy diets.
FoodCorps is a nationwide team of passionate leaders who work to connect kids to real food. As a “Seed Funder,” Annie’s is enabling FoodCorps Fellows to support, guide, and mentor service members who then go out to teach kids about what healthy food is and where it comes from, build and tend school gardens, and bring high-quality local food into public school cafeterias.