Their first attempt was Saturday when 40 children between the ages of 2-17 showed up for two hours at The Learning Garden at the corner of Clinton Street and Chinnabee Avenue. The day, according to an organizer and area farmer Aliza Yarden-Cummings, proved to be a lot of fun for the adults and the children, who are eager to work and learn. The children planted flowers, herbs and vegetables.
Yarden-Cummings said The Learning Garden began with a discussion on container planting and evolved into a back to Eden sustaining principal.
“It’s been around for about 35 years,” she said. “We want to teach our kids how to become sustainable farmers, that is to grow vegetables and farm without using pesticides or herbicides. When you talk about sustainable agriculture it means you do things like companion planting and succession planting. You plant today, two weeks later you plant again, and two weeks later you plant again so that your produce won’t come in at the same time. We’re teaching these principles because we want our kids to be able to farm and not be dependent upon others to get what they need.”
Yarden-Cummings said the children will be taught how to heirloom plant, using their original seeds. She said that what most people don’t know is that 97 percent of seeds in America are hybrid -- they will not reproduce, so The Learning Garden will teach them how to raise seeds that they can get produce from that will grow again next year.
Yarden-Cummings said she’s happy with the turnout Saturday.
“We had kids that were so excited, even my grandchildren who live an hour from here came, and they were excited,” she said. “We had raised beds that were 4 feet wide by 10 feet long set up. Everyone planted one plant, put their names on their plant stick and put the stick by the plant. We let them decide what they wanted to plant.”
Marisa Treuninger, a vendor who sells bread, pear salsa, pear relish and canned goods, thinks it’s a wonderful idea and one from which the children will benefit.
“It’s one of the best things anyone has thought of doing,” she said. “We all talked about it and decided that was the best thing to do for our children. It’s good for them. It teaches them where our food comes from. They can get an education from this.”
Treuninger’s grandson, Avik, 8, who is in fourth grade at Pleasant Valley, likes to plant. He was present Saturday and his choice of seed to plant was a sunflower.
“He loves to plant, and he loves the garden in town,” said Treuninger. “He helps me at home. He pulls weeds and helps plant and gather the vegetables. He loves to eat them.”
The children planted purple potatoes, which Treuninger said makes good potato sticks, in tires. Treuninger said she was introduced to the purple potatoes by Yarden-Cummings who also introduced her to the potato sticks.
Madison Smith, 8, who is the granddaughter of Yarden-Cummings, has a garden at her home in Birmingham and was with her grandmother Saturday at The Learning Garden.
“It’s hard, hot work, but stuff will grow that we can eat, so it’s worth it,” said Madison. “Kids can come every weekend and help. It’s going to be beautiful.”
The children not only learn how to plant, take care of what they plant, and harvest their crop, they also learn how to market their produce. They’re allowed to sell some of it at The Farmers Market on Saturday or they can take it home with them.
Laura Gaddy contributed to this story.