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!