After a weeklong camp, a group of children now know how to protect tomatoes as they grow, sell their produce at a farmers market and start their own garden at home.
Students in the youth garden camp, hosted by Purdue Extension Johnson County, learned how seeds germinate and what they would need to do to grow their own produce. They learned potatoes grow in the ground and that tomato plants need cages for extra support.
For three years, the Purdue Extension office has offered the camp for the youngsters aged 8 to 12. The camp is a way for local youngsters to learn the basics of gardening and where their meals come from.
“It’s really just to let kids be outside to enjoy nature and to find out where their food comes from,” said Ashley Schultz, youth educator.
The 14 students tended the garden plots outside the extension office and around the fairgrounds, played games that taught them about agriculture, learned how seeds grow and how to market vegetables.
Backyard plots and gardens have made a comeback in recent years as people try to grow their own food to save money, which could be one reason why the camp is popular, Schultz said. Teaching gardening early shows people they have the resources to grow their own food, she said.
“It’s an awareness thing,” she said. “People go to the grocery store and don’t realize that they can do their own container garden.”
Children who learn a hobby young could carry it on for the rest of their lives, said Sarah Hanson, education and natural resources educator.
“It’s important to do it as young as you can,” she said. “If this is their hobby now, we can make them excited about something they are interested in.”
Children learn a bit about all phases of gardening at the five-day camp. On day one, they talked about the role trees play in the environment. By day five, they had to develop a product that could come from a garden, such as a bird feeder, and a plan to market it.
The idea is for students to learn the economics of agriculture, Schultz said.
Having students develop and market an agricultural product is new this year, added by local extension educators.
“They are actually getting to develop a product and take things on,” she said.
Some students who sign up for the camp are interested in learning about gardening; others want to help grandma and their parents in their garden, Hanson said.
William Creviston, 10, said he attended the camp so he could learn how to better take care of his family’s garden. His family grows produce in the back yard because they want to know where their food comes from, he said.
“(Food) tastes better straight from the backyard,” he said.
William said he was able to identify mint from the smell and the shape of the leaves in his father’s garden after a week spent at the camp last year.
Layne Sodrel, 9, wants to learn how to grow flowers so she can sell them at the Franklin Farmers Market.
The garden camp is the first place to start, she said.
“If we want to start our own garden, we need to know what to do first,” she said.