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Gardening column

Teach our children to garden
By: BY JENNIFER MINER SPECIAL TO THE NEWS MESSENGER
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Our job as parents is to teach our children life skills that will help them mature into productive happy adults. Fortunately, the current “green” trend is helping to teach our children the benefits of recycling, reusing and reducing. My 5-year-old already knows what garbage can to put all of our throw-away items - green waste, garbage and recyclables. He does it without even realizing what he is doing. When I was 5, we only had one garbage can and everything went into it but we have taught our children to be more concerned with the future of our planet. As a gardener, I am wondering why teaching our children the importance and value of growing our own vegetables has not become as common as teaching them to recycle. It is very important to know that most of the vegetables purchased in a grocery store have traveled at least 1,500 miles before it reaches the store. The amount of fuel used and the amount of carbon emissions released to truck our produce around our nation is staggering. There are two ways we can cut down on this waste. The first option is we can shop at Farmers’ Markets where the produce will only travel on the average 35 to 50 miles to get to the markets. Fruits and vegetables purchased at Farmers’ Markets are generally significantly fresher and more nutritious. The second option is we can teach our children how to grow their own vegetables. Planting a vegetable garden, no matter how big or small, can be very rewarding. There are five reasons why planting a veggie garden will be the smartest move you will make for your family. Taste: Everyone who has ever grown their own vegetables will confirm it: vegetables that are picked right out or the garden and eaten taste delicious and much better than what you get in the grocery store. You only pick what you need so everything is always fresh. Savings: After the initial cost of starting the garden, the vegetables that come from your garden are free. USDA estimates that every $100 spent on vegetable gardening can yield $1,000 to $1,700 worth of produce. Health: You can control what pesticides and fertilizers are used on the plants. You can have healthy chemical-free veggies every day. It is also known that veggies picked for the grocery are picked before they are ripe so they ship better. When vegetables are picked before they are ready, their nutritional value is compromised. So vegetables from the garden not only taste better but they are more nutritious. Exercise: Tending a vegetable garden is physical work that burns calories and uses muscles. You can burn 220 to 500 calories per hour simply by working in your vegetable garden. Environment: Growing your own vegetable garden is an easy way to benefit the environment by reducing the carbon emissions and waste created by shipping and packaging vegetables sold in grocery stores. I realize that most of us will not be able to grow all of our vegetable and fruit needs. However, if we all had a small plot where we grew our favorites, we could have a huge and positive effect on our environment. If we teach our children how important this is and show them how to grow some of our own vegetables, then by the time they are adults and living on their own, veggie gardening will be second nature to them - just like my son’s ability to know and understand the importance of recycling. Jennifer Miner is the owner of Flower Hut Nursery, 603 4th St. off Highway 65 in Wheatland. For more information, call (530) 633-4526 or visit www.flowerhutnursery.com.