Everyone agrees that youth can learn valuable skills and lessons in the garden. Farm to Preschool is often cited for creating healthy palettes in developing children. Elementary School gardens are now more important than ever. But we must not forget about the farm to school movement for teens and young adults. At the Manna Garden, we work hard to empower young adults from La Plata Youth Services, Trio Upward Bound, Animas High School, and The Four Corners Rainbow Youth Center. Through our partnership with Celebrating Healthy Communities (CHC), The Garden Project runs teen specific programs that make teens in La Plata County feel valued.
Why is it important to make sure all teens feel valued? Healthy Kids Colorado surveyed teens throughout the state and found that:
- 30% of teens felt sad or hopeless everyday for 2 weeks
- 14% of teens made a suicide plan
- 8% of teens attempted suicide in the last year
- 35% of transgender high school students attempted suicide
- 24% of gay or lesbian students attempted suicide
- 26% of bisexual students attempted suicide
The statistics are staggering, and provide a strong call to action for nonprofits that work with youth.
Why gardening for teens? In addition to the broader understanding of where food comes from and how your body is fueled by it, there are more complex garden lessons about adversity that are suited to teens. That strong feeling of empowerment after planting a seed and seeing it produce an edible fruit or vegetable is something that can be carried forth into life. The following gardening tasks or topics can provide meaningful experiences for teens:
- Weather/Watering - gardeners cannot control the weather, but they can make choices that may minimize the impacts of weather on their crops. Teens cannot control certain circumstances in their lives but can always make a choice concerning that circumstance and make choices about their reaction to adversity.
- Fertilization/Soil Health - gardeners work hard to provide all of the proper nutrients to plants through soil health and fertilization, those crops with nutritious soil prosper. Teens who choose a well balanced meal will prosper more so than those who choose an energy drink for breakfast.
- Teamwork and Peer Groups- gardeners and farmers rely on each other to accomplish hard physical tasks. Teens who rely on each other and develop peer relationships within the garden develop more complex relationships with teammates (class mates, garden mates, etc.).
- Adult Mentorship - gardeners and farmers typically start out being mentored by an older farmer. Teens feel the same mentorship in the garden with adults. This helps to increase conversations between youth and adults.
- Entrepeneurship - gardeners develop business skills by running their own business. Teens develop life skills for future jobs by running markets and selling produce in addition to financing a garden plot or garden.
- Food Justice - farmers and gardeners in La Plata County work hard to make a living, save resources, and feed those people who are food insecure. Teens who work with food insecure people develop empathy and gain a greater view of food justice.
- Sustainable World View - gardeners and farmers know the importance of saving resources. Teens will begin to develop an ethic around sustainability and food systems.
Thanks for helping us support youth garden programs from preschool to high school. It's all profoundly important!
Overwhelmed by vegetables? I know sometimes September can be overwhelming. More gardeners than ever are donating produce to the Manna Market free produce stand to help make sure that people who cannot afford fresh healthy foods are getting them. That's always an option if you feel like you don't have the time to maniacally preserve food all month. If you do have the time + patience to put away a lot of food, maybe this post can help you make it a bit easier. Don't be afraid to take shortcuts. My favorite shortcuts include:
- Refrigerator Pickles - but not just cukes, think carrots, turnips, radishes, onions and all tasty things that can be added to meals October - March. These vinegar bombs can last up to 6 months in your home refrigerator, no canning needed.
- Quick Ferments - Sauerkraut, carrots, turnips and all the things listed above can be fermented in a week to two weeks. You can even use your canning jars, just make sure your lacto-fermentation is happening an-aerobically, (meaning below the liquid in the jar).
- Freeze your tomatoes whole, toss them in a gallon bag whole and freeze them. When you want to use them, take them out and thaw. The skin will peel right off and you can take the seeds out, run through a mill, or use however you would have originally. This is probably my favorite lazy technique.
- Freeze Freeze Freeze just blanch veggies and put them in freezer baggies, so easy and you can use the same water for everything including, kale, broccoli, spinach and corn.
- Shred extra summer squash and freeze without even blanching....Thaw and then squeeze out extra liquid in a towel. You're ready for baked goods!!!!
- Put things in cans and put those cans in the freezer!!!!!!! Just pull out a can, thaw and eat! LAAAZZZYYYY but if you've got the freezer space why not?
Butttttt if you find that even these shortcuts are too much, bring your produce to Manna every Wednesday from 1-3 pm and we will happily re-home it for you!
As more and more consumers and restaurants are purchasing whole, 1/2, or 1/4 animals, more chefs are looking for employees with some butchering and preservation skills. Manna's Culinary Arts Department lucked out when Neal Drysdale agreed to teach a class on charcuterie. Neal Drysdale, Chef De Cuisine of The Strater Hotel is leading the way in the local meats movement. As a Board Member of Local Brands Cooperative, Neal works hard to make local + regional meat accessible to restauranteurs and consumers.
Charcuterie, or preserved prepared meats, are growing in popularity and are a great addition to a new chef's toolbox. But is Charcuterie a new skill? Absolutely not! Charcuterie has been around since the first century AD and was an effective way to preserve meats pre-refrigeration. Charcuterie is a great and diverse way to prepare meats from a whole animal. But first, let's talk about why!Read more
Who's itching to get out into the garden? The Garden Project is excited to get the gardening season started early this year! We not only offer a beautiful setting to get outside, but we also focus on making each work day a learning experience for volunteers. Questions about gardening? Bring them to the workday. This is a great time to quiz our staff about cool weather crops and seed starting (which should be on your mind right about now). We welcome all volunteers, no gardening experience required!Read more
Did you know that we harvested 1,335 lbs of produce at the Manna Garden this year? An increase of over 450 lbs from last year!
But that is just the tip of the iceberg....