Lessenger kids learn where food comes from

Master gardener assists with first planting of the season

By: Andy Kozlowski | Madison - Park News | Published June 8, 2012


MADISON HEIGHTS — A ball of chocolate-colored fur, Shadow the rabbit perked her ears as children’s laughter filled the courtyard garden at Lessenger Elementary.

She watched as more than 20 kindergarteners in Carrie Murphy’s class crossed the fence that splits the garden in two, gathering around plots that will soon be teeming with broccoli, carrots, beans, chives, basil, oregano, thyme, rosemary, parsley, tomatoes, watermelons, pumpkins and more.

But first, the youngsters will have to plant them.

Joining them for the first plant of the season was Beverly Moss from the MSU Extension Master Gardener Volunteer Program. She was teaching three kindergarten and two first-grade classes that day, May 30, starting with Murphy’s class.

“I like working with kids — this is fun to me,” Moss said. “I want to teach them that it’s fun to grow your own food and watch it grow, to harvest it from the ground and bring it to your table. It’s very basic, almost primitive; it goes back to our roots. Vegetables don’t come from little Styrofoam packages in the store; they have a place that they come from. Even when I was a child myself, it was very hard to understand this.”

This is the second year the garden will be maintained during the summer with the help of people attending day camp at the school. But children have been working in the courtyard since the lot, once barren, was transformed with the help of art teacher Craig Hinshaw several years ago. Now it’s lush and green and full of artistic flourishes, with a koi pond, rabbit hutch and bird feeders on one side, and garden plots on the other.

Composters donated by ORBIS and seeds donated by Joe Alfrey of Northern Lights helped get this year’s garden started. The Wolf and Tiger dens of Cub Scout Pack 1587 helped clean up the courtyard along with Daisy Troop 74745. The Daisy Troop will also maintain a plot of decorative flowers.

Now it was time to get down and dirty. As seven kids took trowels and kneeled around one plot burying seeds for broccoli and beans, the rest of the class sat with their teacher in the shade of a leafy tree, talking about how seeds grow into food as the students waited for their turn to dig and water.

Roslyn Grafstein, mother of a kindergartner and first-grader at the school, and one of the organizers of this year’s planting, said it’s a discussion worth having.

“I think it’s important that our kids know where our food comes from, and that they be a part of helping to create their food,” Grafstein said. “Given today’s economic situation, I think that if we can teach our kids at a young age how to grow their own food and be self-reliant, it will help not only themselves to be more healthy, but it will potentially re-create the more agricultural society Michigan has had in the past. I think that urban farming is a great way to do that.”

Moss said it’s magical for kids to see how something edible can grow out of a teeny seed planted in the ground, and how all it takes is water, sunshine and lots of love.

“It won’t grow without care, which is the same for a puppy or a kitty, or anything that lives,” Moss said. “Gardening teaches them to care.”