AG for LIfe's second try at Junior Garden Club was a must

The club promotes gardening and encourages fun learning. 

With the pandemic the importance of basic, yet under appreciated necessities of life like food production, is more on the public consciousness. For agriculture, getting children interested in food production should start at an early age, no matter whether they live in rural or urban areas. 

Agriculture for Life (Ag for Life) is bringing back the extremely popular Junior Garden Club which had a lot of success in its inaugural year in 2020. The 2021 version kicked off March 24 and run until Friday, Oct. 15. 

“We had a really good response last year, we started it a little last year and the response we received we knew we were going to do something thing this year,” explains Irena Ceko, Marketing and Communications Specialist with Ag for Life. “We wanted to get going sooner rather than later. In Alberta right now it’s not the ideal conditions for planting anything just yet but we wanted to make sure that we had everything ready to go because we knew of the heavy turn out we had last year.

“We had quite a few registrations already, in addition to that, we had a lot of individuals inquiring. Last year we had an age category, so we had a lot of inquiries of whether we could have younger kids participate, older kids participate, and just open it up to all of youth this year. In addition, we received a lot of requests for more resources so we were sending out emails with updates. Last year we were sending updates every two weeks last year, from individuals and parents who wanted us to send more information, to send videos..we didn’t want to be annoying last year so we kinda were testing the waters.

There is a lot going on in the club including tips, varieties of activities and videos. In a statement “The Junior Garden Club cultivates wonder and encourages natural interest while teaching youth the techniques of growing food at home. It uses gardening and food activities to support learning objectives, from planting tiny seeds and prepping soil to making a fresh salad and pickling vegetables – the club connects children to agriculture, food and the environment. Teaching children how to grow their own food is key to promoting good health while exposing them to a variety of fruits and vegetables, which in turn contributes to a healthy lifestyle down the road. Apart from supporting healthy eating, gardening teaches patience and responsibility, enhances fine motor skills, builds self-confidence and fosters a love of nature.”

Ceko was quite enthusiastic in talking about the additions to the club’s activities from last year. Because of the interest generated, they received a lot of positive feedback and some suggestions which were implemented.

“We did get some questions on adding more variety of vegetables, so I think this year we have added tomatoes, peppers, greens, squash, cucumbers, potatoes and onions,” explains Ceko. “We have also included a lot more activities this year so things like creating garden markers or keeping a growth chart in the garden, doing furrow investigations, and we also do a lot of food waste lessing labs. We are introducing more curriculum connections so that potentially we can introduce a gardening club in schools. We are also doing a lot more recipes. What can the kids create from the things they are growing. Some of the recipes are kale chips, stuffed zucchini bows, carrot muffins and this year we are doing pickling which is another addition we didn’t do last year.” 

One of the new features is an expanded photo component. Ceko says last year they were getting in photos from rookie gardeners growing their first chives and green onions etc and it was very inspiring to see. This year, the plan is to expand on the photos aspect and showcase them more by creating a contest. There’s an opportunity for a photo to appear in Calgary’s Horticulture Society’s yearly calendar. 

While there are tips for those who have smaller space gardening areas, this isn’t a program for just urban children, it is for anyone who wants to learn. For March, April and May, they will send out a monthly newsletter but from June until October, there is a weekly lesson plan to follow for specific plant and growth charts. Topics such as watering and harvesting and everything in between will be examined. 

“Literally every single thing you need to know for first time grower so they don’t miss a step,” adds Ceko.

Ceko is proud of what is being accomplished with what work is being done by Ag for Life but also with this particular program. Ag for Life’s is about building a greater understanding and appreciation of agriculture through educational programs and awareness raising activities. 

“Our main mission as (AG for Life) is to share the story of food and develop and expand on our variety and quality of our education programming so we can really share the story of food and let children know where it comes from… a lot of us are disconnected from that process so with this garden club and schools coming to an end pretty soon, we wanted to engage curious minds and really offer an opportunity to be learning and grown— no pun intended — over the course of the summer months. With Covid we have seen a shift in every aspect of our world. I think it is really important… we have seen a really big interest in gardening since Covid. It has been amazing to see this need to connect back to food and our planet and to just take it back to where it all come from.”

For more information on the Junior Garden Club and to register visit www.agricultureforlife.ca/juniorgardenclub. Ag for Life will have posts on Facebook, Instagram and their website for program updates this spring and summer. 

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