Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Teaching Kids to Garden (& Surviving to Tell the Tale)



Q: WHY TEACH KIDS TO GARDEN?
A: Because we can't afford another generation of children who grow up without the essential knowledge of how things work.

Q: DOES IT REALLY MATTER IF KIDS KNOW HOW TO GROW FOOD? I MEAN, WHEN WILL THEY ACTUALLY USE THAT KNOWLEDGE? 
A: Whether they have a garden or not when the grow up, it is SO IMPORTANT to give them an appreciation of their food and a respect for the people who grow it. 

This being said, there is nothing more TERRIFYING than teaching a room full of 23 children (all under the age of twelve) how to plant seeds.  Sounds pretty simple, right? All you have to do is fill up
a cup with wet dirt, put a seed in it, and take care of it.  Easy, right? ... RIGHT?

Wrong***

Recently, I visited one of the after school day care programs to teach children there how to start seeds and take care of them.  I do this each spring and it is always a very rewarding experience because the kids appreciate trying something new and getting a little messy in the process.  

***It is also important to note that kids have the amazing, incomprehensible ability to amplify their voices 20x's louder than mine while thrashing about in a massive swarm of arms, legs, and dirt.  Children travel in swarms, did you know that?  




This is not to assume that children are always crazy and difficult teach!  They absorb information like little sponges and remember every. thing. you. say... so be careful.  Besides, kids are generally interested in how things work as well as what it takes to grow a big pumpkin, an itty bitty pepper, or a pretty  petunia.  Out of the massive swarm of children, a few of the kids took a big interest in gardening and asked me all sorts of questions about how things grow.  

Children who had experience with gardening told me stories of growing cucumbers with their grandmas, picking oranges from their old backyards in Puerto Rico, and finding HUGE worms in between carrots and beets.  

Gardening has a lasting affect on kids which (hopefully) carries on into their adulthood.To this day, I still remember weeding around the hostas with my mom and carrying stones from the woods and laying them around the garden beds.  Gardening is a life long process and you never stop learning and teaching others about it.  

IN CONCLUSION. Teach your kids how to grow food.  Teach your friends' kids how to grow food.  Teach your friends', friends' kids how to grow food!  And don't be scared of swarming children as it is just their natural habitat... but do bring earplugs.  


An image from Penrose Kid's Art Garden in Detroit. 


ALSO! Encourage kids to make art in the garden.  Have then paint stones to look like bugs, beetles, or bundt cakes.  Cut up old garden hose and paint them to look like snakes!  Make sculptures out of paper and mud and watch as the water washes them away.  Use old broken dishes and make a mural.  There are so many ways to engage children in the garden; all we have to do is use our creativity!  

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Growing Food in Containers

I grew up in the boonies.  There were hundreds of acres to choose from where I could pick a little plot to grow anything under the sun.  Needless to say, the concept of container gardening is somewhat new.

A view from my parents' home.


Now, after 5 years of moving around from apartment to apartment, I have begun to understand that most people living in the United States do not have the access to land in which to grow on.  Community gardens and yardsharing are all great answers to this problem, but what if there are none around you?

Lo and behold container gardening!!!!  Maybe not the perfect solution, but it is a great and super simple way to supplement your grocery bill and bring a little greenery into your life.

Here are some basics on container gardening to help you on your conquest to world peace!!!  Or where ever it is you're going next.



Figure Out Where You're Going to Grow:  Plants need light (in case you didn't know) so pick the sunniest spot in the house if your starting (and/or staying) indoors.  Preferably, choose a south facing window or invest in grow lights in case you're home is lacking in natural vitamin
Picture gleaned from MyClimateChangeGarden.com
D.  You can actually use normal houselights to supplement natural light, but they are not effective as lights made specifically to mimic the sun.  

Choose the Right Container for the Right Plant:  The container must be large enough to support the plant you're growing, and it must allow for drainage.  Don't feel restricted to using store-bought pots: You can use 5-gallon buckets, cracked coffee mugs, window boxes, etc...

Pick a Good Soil Mix:  Purchase a good quality soil mix from a local provider or make your own by following the link in the heading. 

Create or Purchase an Eco-Friendly Fertilizer: There are recipes all over the internet for compost tea and other useful fertilizers.  Or make friends with farmers who have animals or a horse backing riding establishment to glean manure from them. 
 



Water: It's a pretty simple concept.  If you don't water often then your plants will die but if you water them too much then they will also die.  If you don't understand this then you don't deserve to have plants.  
Illustration by Elayne Sears of Mother Earth News

Please click on the links throughout this post to get a thorough understanding of container gardening!  Container gardening is a great way to bring the outdoors inside and to create a healthy environment to live in.  

Monday, February 16, 2015

THE ARRIVAL OF SEEDS!


Evidence that the holy grail exist and that Monty Python's knights were looking in all the wrong places. Yes... I'm talking about the seeds.

The seeds are in and we are so happy to once again have them available for those looking to garden and grow their own food in their backyards, community gardens, and windows boxes or patios.  

We will also be using them for garden education once again this year, with a SEED STARTING WORKSHOP coming up in March which will be held at the Fredonia Farmers Market.  

Pole and bush beans donated in bulk by Park Seed Company of Greenwood, South Carolina.



If you live in a tiny apartment without room to grow your own, please contact me at ccrmgleaning@gmail.com and I will help to hook you up with a community gardening partner.  


A wealth of vegetable and flower seeds donated to the Gleaning Project from Burpee! 


If you have a wealth of land to plant on, think about growing a few beds or rows of edible plants to donate to a soup kitchen or food pantry nearest you!  

Even some organic seeds for our community and educational gardens.
And finally, if you work for a non-profit or other human services/mental health agency; please contact me to acquire seeds for your clients.


Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Getting Ready to Garden

Yes. I know it is only January.  And yes. I am aware that the high temp. for the day is 20 degrees F. but I CANNOT HELP thinking about our 2015 gardens.  


Dunkirk Weather Report >.<

My cat, he's cute, no?

Will there be rows of beans or carrots, or both?  Will I have to fend off ravenous deer, mega rude rabbits, or old people who can't remember taking all the tomatoes?  Will the kids at BOCES and the Boy's and Girl's Club want to grow potatoes, peas, or gigantic pumpkins?  SO MANY QUESTIONS... maybe that's why I can't sleep.  Actually, no, the reason I can't sleep is because my cat is an extraordinarily vocal jerk.  


So, back to the gardens.

Some commonly asked questions:

1.) Why Do We Grow Food?

Here in Dunkirk, there is a fresh food scarcity due to the small number of groceries, ridiculous amount of convenience stores, and lack of transportation and funds from the people who live in this area.  38% of the overall population lives in poverty, while the childhood poverty rate is 48%.  The county average is 18%, which coincides with NYS poverty rate.  Point being, Dunkirk needs more access to fresh, organically grown food and we are happy to provide that!


2.) How Do We Do It on a Tight Budget?

Honestly, it requires a lot of mailing, a few too many phones calls, and a TON of thank you notes to make the Gardening Program what it is.  This time of year, I mail over 30 seed companies across the country asking for seed donations from their excess supplies.  In mid-June, I call greenhouses to see if they have any extra vegetable and flower plants that are overgrown and not-selling.  Then, when all the supplies are acquired, I head out to the garden plots armed with my shovel and allergy medicine to grow food for the soup kitchen and food pantry.  

Students at the BOCES Education Garden incorporating soil amendments (i.e. goat poop) into the garden.


3.) Is This REALLY My Job?

Yes, yes it is.


As gardening season draws closer and I get more obsessive about where exactly I am going to plant the tomatoes, feel free to drop a call at (716) 366-1787 asking for gardening tips, sourcing ideas, and extra seeds and plants. 
A box of seed donations from Heirloom Seed Company!

We ALWAYS have free seeds to hand out starting in April, as well as free plants to giveaway around early July.  Whether you're a home gardener in Chautauqua County, or you work for an agency that you think would benefit from gardening supplies, you qualify for free seeds!  






Friday, January 23, 2015

Looking Back on 2014

Gleaning grapes in Fredonia.
2014 was a big year for gleaning.  Farmers from all over the county contributed to helping those in need by donating portions of their farms and fields to feed the hungry.
Below are our year-end statistics for 2014.

TOTAL POUNDS OF PRODUCE GLEANED
35,915 lbs.
FOOD RECOVERED (from bakeries)
2,278 lbs.
COMPOST RECOVERED
1,300 lbs.
AND A TON OF FLOWERS!!!


Flower donation from Westfield Nursery in Chautauqua County.


Here in Dunkirk, NY, we also hosted over 40 cooking and nutrition workshops reaching out to low-income families and individuals.  
TOTAL ATTENDEES
620 persons
WORKSHOP TITLES
-Cooking out of the Cupboard
-Preserving the Harvest: Canning and Christina
-Going Gluten-Free: Part I & II
-Springtime Cooking
-Eating Local in Chautauqua County
-How to Make the Perfect Quiche
-Real Food Fall Time Favorites
-Eating with Type II Diabetes
-How to Make Applesauce
-How to Make Grape Juice
-What's in Season? Ratatouille
AND MOOOOOOORE!

Easy as Pie Workshop with Christina Jarvis and Jeanne Frerichs.






Monday, September 29, 2014

No Better Time than Pumpkin Time

It's the time of year where all you want to do at the end of the day is sit down with a steaming mug of hot cocoa and a darn good book to read.  Perhaps you imagine yourself in an oversize snuggie, or maybe cuddling with your cute, fluffy, semi-evil cat.  Where ever your imagination takes you, it should be a mission of yours' to keep this recipe in mind.


Pumpkin-y Goodness Cocoa Full of Yummy-ness and Sunshine
Serves 1
Ingredients
     -2 tbsp. pumpkin
     -3/4 cup soymilk, cowmilk, or whatever milk you like
     -2 tsp. cocoa
     -3-4 drops liquid stevia (you can use 3 tsp. of sugar in place of stevia)
     -1 tsp. molasses
     -a dash of nutmeg

Heat up milk in a saucepan. Add remaining ingredients and heat through. Pour into your favorite mug and enjoy.  



And this one! Don't forget this recipe!
This is my favorite recipe in the whole wide-world for when company comes over.  It is soooo tasty and it tricks my friends and family into eating more good-for-you garlic than what they know!  
Go to your local farmers' market and stock up on winter veggie staples like potatoes, onions, garlic, and squash for this recipe.


Roasted Winter Veggies
Serves 8 to 10
     -5 to 6 cups chopped potatoes, red. yellow, purple, fingerling, whatever
     -3 large carrots
     -2 large yellow onions
     -1 large red onion
     -1 to 2 bulbs garlic
     -5 to 6 large beets
     -2 to 3 delicata squash (the small yellow squash with green stripes)
     -1/3 cup olive oil
     -1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
     -2 tbsp. dried Italian herbs
     -salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Chop everything up to around the same size and place into a large, preferably glass baking dish.  Pour olive oil and vinegar on top and toss to coat.  Sprinkle herbs, salt, and pepper, to taste.  Place in oven and set timer for 15 minutes.  After timer goes off, stir veggies and place back in for another 15 minutes.  Repeat 2 to 3 times until veggies are tender.