It still amazes me how many children today think their food simply comes from the grocery stores. Somewhere, somehow, there is a magical wand out there that, with one smooth wave, produces fried chicken, potato chips, candy and those dreaded vegetables. Here on Paradise, I would gladly give whatever it took to have a go at that wand – I can see it now. Weed-free gardens, lush green grass for the cows that magically reappear after each bite, and fairy tale perfect fruits hanging off of limbs that double as a perch for happy, singing birds.
The depressing reality is that there is no such magic wand. On Paradise Plantation, the food we eat is in direct relationship to the amount of back-breaking effort we put into growing it, along with a gluttonistic portion of money to care for the overall health of the farm. It may be hard work, but you can bet that every bite of a fresh-picked tomato has a sultry flavor that cannot be beat. Tomatoes taste like tomatoes. Squash like squash. No two different types of vegetables taste the same, or like the tasteless cardboard varieties you get in the stores. No wonder kids don’t like them. And once you have tasted home grown, you become so addicted to it that you are willing to labor all over again the next year.
The idea that any foods can be readily available within less than an hour of having a hankering for it deters most people from even considering growing their own. With this attitude comes a secondary one – why work for it when you can just spend a few dollars and get it within minutes? Faulty logic, in my opinion.
The basic necessities for a human are clean water, healthy food and shelter. If we are unable to provide these three things for ourselves, we end up so physically depleted that death is but a moment away. If children truly don’t have any idea where their food really comes from, what happens when they cannot afford to have any of the three? If they have a family to provide for as well, then things can go from bad to worse in the blink of an eye.
Science – Teaching a child to do nothing more than growing some of their own food – and growing it successfully, I might add – is a stepping stone to better health and provisions. It also is a good lesson for patience, and caring for something besides themselves. To watch a tomato plant grow from a tiny seed to a tender shoot to a tall flowering bushy green tower, and then watching as a tiny green orb matures into a large red globe is fascinating. Each day you can venture out to visit your plant to see at least some changes in its growth.
Botany – The lessons one can learn from growing their own vegetables is amazing. In its simplest form, growing plants would fall under the Botany category. Plants need a balanced diet of sunshine (photosynthesis), vitamins, minerals and water to produce well. Each type of plant varies on the types and amounts of these things, but on a very basic level, they need all three.
Environmental Science – But did you realize that by growing your own plants, you could very well be digging in the Environmental Science gardening plot? Poverty is an ever-growing problem in our country. A large percentage of our population are malnourished- both physically and financially. A young teen could plant those seeds and supplement the food for his family for a growing season. If that same teenager has an entrepreneurial bend, he/she could figure out how to take $10.00 worth of seed packets and turn it into a profit that in turn could be used on other necessities. On a more charitable note, he/she could take those same seeds and supplement the food for his family and a few friends and neighbors for no less than a growing season, or if he/she learned to can, a bit further into the year. If the teen purchased heirloom seeds and learned to properly save them, the next year’s investment would be negligible and he/she would be able to grow enough to provide vegetables for those same family, friends and neighbors for a full year through proper preserving techniques of freezing and canning.
Psychology – The self-confidence that builds through learning how to grow your own food, prepare it for a meal and to preserve it for later use is amazing. For a young person to know that he/she has contributed to helping his family live a healthier life is immeasurable. Consider how you would feel, and know that you can pass all that feel good joy on to your child. What parent can refuse?
Our youth have such a mindset of convenience and instant gratification that the concept of the time consuming task of raising their own vegetables is going to be a hard row to weed. But with some encouragement, instructions and working with them, once they get started, they just might end up liking it. A better idea in the beginning may be to make it a family project. And psychologically speaking, this is a project that can nourish your mind, body and soul. What could be better than that?