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COLDWATER, MI -- The Branch County Michigan State University Extension (MSUE) sponsored Vegetable Gardening with Youth, a workshop on May 9 for organizations planning to incorporate gardening into their children’s programs. The workshop was also for groups that received grant monies for their planting ideas.

Sarah Johnson, MSUE Educator in Coldwater, MI, organized the meeting to share information for the grant winners and what the expectations were. Throughout the workshop, attendees received information about local greenhouses for purchasing plants, resources for teaching plans, and ideas for enjoyable gardening practices. The participants were also encouraged to share their experiences with the group.

Mariel Borgman, who works with Community Food Systems program and Greening Michigan Institute out of Kalamazoo, MI, presented a talk on gardening with children and shared the basics. Borgman talked about gardening food in all kinds of spaces, easy vegetables for beginners, educational opportunities, harvesting, and food safety in the garden and kitchen. Many visuals were shared and appreciated by the attendees.

She began with the question “Why garden with youth?” and compiled a list with positive aspects such as healthy local food, encouraging leadership and service, exercise, stress relief, and the trying of new foods. The discussion continued as raised beds and container gardening were given as viable options for minimal space requirements.

“The tools you will need depend on what you choose as a garden method,” Borgman said. “You can purchase child-sized tools for your program which are easier for the children to use.”

The debate about seeds versus starts was presented with the understanding that some vegetables don’t respond as well to transplanting as others do. “Some do best when directly seeded into the soil,” Borgman said. She then encouraged planting a variety of colors of vegetables and shared slides of vegetables with unexpected colors. “There are red carrots,” Borgman said. “A number of vegetables come in all different colors.” Catalogs were shared with the participants that contained the colorful vegetables.

Borgman talked about educational opportunities and the various subjects that can be incorporated in the garden. She used the quote by Aldo Leopold with her presentation, “All the sciences and arts are taught as if they are separate. They are separate only in the classroom. Step out on the campus and they are immediately fused.”

“What do you do with all the harvest?” she asked. Ideas for meals and snacks were shared along with safe food practices. The participants were invited to appreciate public gardens for inspiration as the workshop concluded.

The funds acquired by the groups will be used toward supplies and tools for their projects with the intent on becoming sustainable and supporting the individual gardens and programs.

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