A Worthy Journey: Putting youth gardening into perspective

As we celebrate the interest from children and young adults in growing organic food, we want to point to major influences over the last few years. I thank the efforts of Jamie Oliver, Will Allan, and Michelle Obama and many Moms and Dad’s who are convinced that learning “where food comes from” is the beginning of a worthy journey for today’s kids.  My own childhood was blessed by the abundance of fresh fruit growing in our backyard in Burbank, California. My Mother was from the Midwest and she canned apricots and plums every year from our trees, and taught me almost to expect the tastes of our oranges, and guavas, plums, apricots and apples each year.  I had no idea then that I was living in a “privileged” experience for the taste buds. In my high school years Mom introduced me to the teachings of Adele Davis, and how the lack of nutritional expertise in the medical profession limited us as patients. Because of this, I took to preventative medicine and learned that natural remedies were better for my hypoglycemic nature. Mom launched me into the study of amino acids, digestion, homeopathics, and herbs to help with my sensitivity to sugar and my difficult mood swings. My depressions and bouts with darkness, as well as my struggles with weight soon healed when I followed a more vegetarian diet. Unfortunately, it took many years to discover the nutritional base of my systemic problems as a young person.

Today, in our business, we have the privilege of working with over 80 schools and the curriculum development and excitement of several teachers and classes at different age levels.  To remember working with each level at Episcopal School of Dallas, as well as the community based program begun at Yampah, Colorado Rocky Mountain School and Roaring Fork High School, near Aspen…..and to see the development of so many more schools now providing a living laboratory in our Growing Domes®, is a joy.  Our journey with schools began with Montessori and Waldorf ones in the 80’s and now includes many public schools. The need for organic and local food awareness has grown. Our health as a society depends upon it.

Resources are readily available now online and the many blogs and recipes and instructions about growing are easy to find. Gardening with children is a bonding experience that allows a deeper connection with natural life and introduces the essential connection we all have with our earth. I love to watch my grand-kids thrive in the excitement of planting and growing seeds. An article on 10 Tips for Organic Gardening with Kids on the Mother Nature Network gives easy tips for beginning to share this experience.

One of the most valuable things I have ever done is taken a course at the Center for Education, Imagination and the Natural World in North Carolina ( https://beholdnature.org/ ). Here, I have opened to my own natural awareness of the power and foundation of experiences in nature and how they support my awareness and sense of peace and groundedness in these times.  Based on the wisdom shared by Thomas Berry, this program is a unique and sensitive dive into the deeper dimensions and possibilities opened by our exploration of the natural world. Their mission includes this statement: “Presently, the natural world is viewed as a commodity to be used rather than as a sacred reality to be venerated. A shift in our way of relating to the natural world is essential if we hope to participate in nature’s unfolding rather than in its demise. This shift is nowhere more crucial than within the field of education where the child’s way of relating to the natural world is formed.”

I am honored to report that the work of Carolyn Toben and Peggy Whalen offered in this course, has given me a renewal of the wonder and contemplative practices I knew as a child in nature, and have opened me to new ways of sharing it with others. Their Mentor Thomas Berry says it all:

“A vast transformation is occurring in human consciousness in the depths of the psyche as we struggle to recover ourselves from our separation from the earth, from the universe, the divine and one another.

At the present time there has been an immense devastation of the planet that threatens all of life that has developed up until now. But something new is happening…a new vision; new energy is coming into being….”

“Our fate and the fate of the planet are identical. We must now move from an entirely human-centered view of our existence to an earth-centered view, to the realization that the earth is a communion of subjects, not a collection of objects for our use. We must enter into a new human-earth relationship.”

We see with our hearts that we are, indeed a communion of subjects, not a collection of objects and an inner shift occurs.

We recover that which was lost.”

(From Seeds of the Future, Quotations from Thomas Berry)

Author: Puja Dhyan Parsons, Owner & CEO



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