How do you get folks hooked on gardening? Let them get their hands dirty!
No one knows this better than Urban Roots, a nonprofit organization that serves youth on the east side of St. Paul, Minnesota.
It gets them hooked at an early age through its programs, including their Garden Corps, Nutrition Corps and Conservation Corps.
This year there are 45 teens, referred to as interns, participating. It’s a popular program—more than twice that many applied.
The Garden Corps interns tend six gardens on the east side, and they’re involved in every stage, from planting to harvesting. Interns spending their first summer with Urban Roots work about 8 hours a week. Returning interns spend up to 20 hours a week during the summer caring for the gardens and learning how to grow foods organically.
The food they harvest gets shared with local families through a community supported agriculture (CSA) model, but the Corps members get some of it, too.
The Nutrition Corps interns learn the benefits of a healthy diet that’s rich in good-for-you foods. They also get lessons about cooking the harvest as well as preserving it. The interns then go out into the community to teach others about healthy recipes, cooking techniques and nutritious food.
The Conservation Corps interns put their energy into learning how to care for the land around them, from removing invasive species and encouraging native plants to water conservation. They’re also very involved in gardening, and they design, install and teach about rain gardens in the community.
You couldn’t find youth more dedicated to gardening. They share what they’ve learned among themselves but also with their community.
And even though they’re young, the Urban Roots interns are wise beyond their years. They’ve already learned what many of us don’t understand until much later in life: Gardening is more than just growing plants: It teaches us how to be good citizens and stewards of the land.
Kathy Childers is editor-in-chief of Gardening How-To magazine. She gardens in St. Paul, Minnesota. Photos are courtesy of Urban Roots.