American Farm Bureau Federation staff recently volunteered to help preschoolers start a vegetable garden and teach them about how plants grow. The American Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture has partnered with the General Services Administration and Transportation Department to provide seed money and hands-on help with the garden, which is part of the DOT Child Development Center’s curriculum on nutrition and health. Pre-school kids attending daycare at several federal facilities right near the AFBF office are planting and maintaining the garden. Farm Bureau employees will continue volunteering throughout the summer to help the children keep their garden watered and weeded.
Sara Murphy, a horticulturalist with the General Services Administration is overseeing the project. “The plan is to do a sensory garden, so less focused on vegetable production and more about engaging the senses, looking at the plants, touching them, smelling them, listening to the sounds in the garden,” Sara said. “We’re going to be watering, we’re going to be using a composting machine, tasting. Obviously, there’s going to be some edibles.”
For the first crop, the kids planted fennel, rosemary, thyme, blueberries and broccoli. Plans are in the works to expand the focus of the garden in subsequent years, but for now Sara is keeping it simple for the kids.
A school or community garden can transform an open area into an outdoor learning laboratory where teachers, students, and community volunteers can learn and grow together. It is an opportunity for Farm Bureau members to share their vast knowledge of soil science, planting, harvesting, technology, land stewardship, food systems, food safety, and marketing. It is an opportunity for us to share our passion of the art, science and business of today’s food system and the vital role farmers play in everybody’s life on a daily basis.
If you are interested in starting a similar garden project for a local school or your community, there are how-to resources available from the American Community Gardening Association, an essential plants list from CitySprouts, the School Garden Wizard from the National Botanic Garden (including many activities for every season), or a variety of school garden information from USDA.
As part of AFBF’s employee volunteerism program, staff members have volunteered at several community organizations serving military families, children receiving medical care and the homeless. The DOT preschool garden is the newest addition to the volunteer projects available to AFBF volunteers.