Why gardening matters for kids

When I was a kid, I lived on a hobby farm; we had cows, sheep, and a large garden in which we grew a variety of vegetables.  These were the days before smart phones, smart appliances, and smart cars.  We were living in a 2-3 channel TV universe, and for a brief time the most interesting ring tone in the house was the one that identified that the call that was for you, not one of the neighbours on your party line.  But I’m not complaining, really.

I’m sure my mom remembers me complaining when we’d get home from school and find that she had a couple of bushels of beans for us to snap, or peas for us to shell.  That’s probably the last thing we wanted to do after school.  But we appreciated how great these vegetables tasted fresh, and later, when we pulled them from the freezer.  Most importantly, we learned how to grow our own food, and what it’s supposed to look like, taste like, and how it is supposed to nourish us.  We mimicked our parents by growing small gardens of our own (when we weren’t helping out in the main garden).

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My first garden.  There are edibles in there somewhere.

Society has changed, though.  We spend more time indoors and connected to devices; we’re often detached from the natural environment in which we exist.  Fewer parents garden, and fewer children are educated about food production.  The term nature deficit disorder has been coined to explain some of the behavioural issues that may arise in a today’s housebound kids.  But it’s more than just behaviour.  It’s a matter of basic health, both ours and of the environment.  When we eat food that’s been contaminated by pesticides and other harmful chemicals, we’re exposing ourselves to a host of problems.  Most susceptible are the workers who produce this food, and children (unfortunately, in some countries, these groups are one and the same).

Children are especially susceptible to the harmful effects of pesticide residues due to their lower body mass, rapid development, and higher rates of consumption of affected products.  F FIn children, exposure to certain pesticides from residues in food can cause delayed development; disruptions to the reproductive, endocrine, and immune systems; certain types of cancer; and damage to other organs.  FPrenatal exposure to certain pesticides can affect cognitive development and behavior.  FSeveral studies have found that pesticide levels in children dropped to low or undetectable levels when test subjects consumed an organic  G diet.  (source)

In an effort to repeatedly mass produce on the same parcels of land, we’re putting ourselves at risk.

We can’t look at food the same way that we do shoes, and assume that what’s in the store is good for us.  The reality is that unless you are buying local and organic, there is a good change that you are ingesting harmful chemicals.  But unless one has grown one’s own food or researched food production, one may be detached from the process.  Food may just be another pair of shoes that one orders and assumes that if they’re the right size, they won’t cause blisters.

Studies show that children who are encouraged to garden appreciate ecology more and learn to respect their environment.  More importantly, they learn to enjoy a wider variety of fresh, healthy vegetables, and they make more informed food choices throughout their lives.  If you can, grow some food, either in your home, at your school, or in a community centre.  It’s not just the plants that may flourish.

 

 

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