I am a firm believer that Children should be taught about where food comes from from an early age. In my opinion, schools seem to focus so heavily on the more academic subjects, such as English and Maths that other subjects such as gardening can be overlooked. Of course, I understand the importance of good literacy and numeracy but I do feel that more practical life skills should be given more attention than they currently receive.
It seems that a worrying number of Children do not know where their food comes from and would not have the first idea about how to begin cultivating a simple crop. I think that this is incredibly sad and also a little bit scary!
Anyone who knows me will know that I will firmly point the finger in my Grandad’s direction if I am ever asked who inspired me to take up growing my own fruit and veg. While he can take almost all the credit, a very small amount must be given to my primary school. I was in year four (approximately 8 years old) when we were given a gardening topic. This involved all the Children in our class being split into pairs. Each pair was then allocated a very small patch of land in the school “garden” in which we could grow whatever crops we chose. Our patches must have only been about 50cm by 50cm, but I remember being completely enthralled in this topic and loving every minute of it.
Now I am older, I have two Children of my own. They are eleven and ten now. Although their school has a small “garden”, my Children have never been assigned any kind of gardening topic and have never had the chance to get their hands dirty in the earth the way that I did. My Son is a complete whizz at maths and can solve algebra puzzles that I would struggle with. However, when it comes to growing food, something that without which we would all be stuck, all he knows is what I have taught him. I just wish that more schools would realise the importance of teaching Children about growing food when they are young, as if they develop an interest in it at a young age, that can be nurtured into something so much bigger as they grow.
With that in mind, I have done my best to actively teach my own two Children about growing fruit and vegetables. I never try to force them to come to the allotment as I want them to do it because they want to and not because they feel forced. That said, there have been a couple of times where I have had to apply subtle pressure to ease them away from the tablets and into the wellies (and yes, on one occasion, I did have to tell my Son that I would allow him to dress as a Stormtrooper if he came to the allotment). I will say though, that they have always enjoyed being there once we have actually got down to work.
There are many benefits that I have discovered with having my Children at the allotment with me. The first is that they are getting fresh air and exercise. This to me is a huge plus. Like so many other Children their age they spend a large amount of time inside on some form of digital technology. When they are at the allotment with me I know that they are getting well over their daily recommended amount of exercise and they are having fun and learning something new too.
The second benefit that I have noted is that both my Children are much more open to trying new fruit and veg if it is something that they have helped to grow. My Daughter has always enjoyed food and tried new things, but my Son is regularly fussy. However, when he is up the allotment he loves to help harvest the crops and without exception, he has always tried the things that we have grown. He was adamant that he didn’t like spice and refused to eat anything spicy, then one day at the allotment I turned around to find him nibbling on a Chilli that he had plucked straight from the plant! It seems that if we have grown it, he will give it a go. I am not saying he has liked everything that he has tried, but at least he has tried it!
The third benefit is that both my Children are learning a new and vital skill. Without the farmers of this country, we would all be stuck. Farmers are the unsung heroes who work through all seasons, all weather and seem to be facing increasing problems as the years pass. Yet without them, where would we be? I am proud that my Children know where their food comes from, how to grow basic crops and are learning more and more each year. Yes, algebra is important, but surely not as important as being able to feed yourself? To be safe in the knowledge that if the apocalypse came(!) and all food shops disappeared overnight, that we could still survive.