Reflections from Our Grow-a-Row Kids Farm Days
With summer winding down and the school year quickly approaching, now is the time when the America’s Grow-a-Row team reflects on what a fantastic summer we’ve had so far (and gets excited about the big harvests to come!). One of our favorite times of the season is our two weeks of Grow-a-Row Kids Farm Days when youth from communities that lack access to fresh, affordable produce (known as food deserts) come to the farm to experience how food grows, make and sample a healthy recipe, and harvest produce for their own families. We also have teen volunteers at the farm during this time, and watching their personal growth as leaders for our younger friends is always inspiring.
When we think about our Kids Farm Days experience, we wonder how the children who come out feel about their trip to the farm and what they think are the most exciting and memorable parts of their trip. This year, we noticed three distinct types of reflection that happened. The first was a full-group reflection. One day a group was enjoying their lunch inside our Education Center after harvesting and cooking. The group’s camp counselor asked them to take a moment and think about whether they would like to share something they learned that day. The responses were outstanding and helped our team see that the children truly were absorbing all that was happening at the farm. We heard, “Corn needs to grow with its friends in a community so all the ears get pollinated,” and “Trees are like people and if they try to grow too many apples they’ll get tired and only have small fruit.” A student proudly proclaimed, “The zucchini is the fruit of the plant!” and another held up her heavy bag of produce and said, “Farmers work really, really, REALLY, hard!” This group reflection showed that the group had enjoyed their day and learned quite a bit.
There is also personal reflection taking place at the farm constantly, and sometimes we are lucky enough to have children share their thoughts about the farm with us. There was one group that was about to harvest corn. After we showed them the field and gave instructions on how to harvest, one of the boys in the group came up to me quietly and, looking confused, asked, “Where’s the corn?” I held up an ear and showed him. He quickly responded, “That’s not corn.” We assured him it was corn, but his perplexed reply was, “But…that’s green.” At this moment I understood: he had never seen an ear of corn before and had probably only had it from a can or frozen. I peeled open the ear of corn to expose the yellow and white kernels, and his reaction was pure joy as he shouted to his friends, “Wait! Everybody! It IS corn!” And he quickly began filling his bag. Later, as the group was getting ready to leave, he came up to me and said, “This was really fun. Maybe I can be a farmer when I grow up and help share food with people too!” At the beginning of the day this boy had never been to a farm before, and now he is excited about being introduced to a career path helping others that he had never considered a possibility.
Finally, the last type of reflection happens at home when children share their harvest with their families and reflect on their experiences at the farm. We are lucky enough to have some students who come two or even three years in a row. They get excited about being at the farm again and tell us things like, “My sister loved the plums last year,” and “My aunt asked me to bring extra string beans this year so we can have them for dinner.” Knowing that the children get to go home with a sense of ownership and take home healthy food that they picked for their families is one of the best parts of Grow-a-Row Kids Farm Days and something we always get excited about. As we reflect on this year’s groups that came out and look ahead to more harvest days, we are reminded of one young girl whose words continue to make us smile. As she was heading to the bus to leave, she turned to Kyra, Chip’s daughter who helped to start the Kids Farm Days program many years ago, and said, “I’m going to write down everything we did today in my diary. I don’t want to forget anything! And if I’m lucky…maybe I’ll have a dream about this place.” We feel the same way – that our experience with these amazing youth is the thing of dreams!