Gardening made so easy, a toddler can do it. That is a realized goal after the Sierra Gardens Program was introduced to the Child Development Center at Sierra College. Site Supervisor, Katie Foss said, the state-run pre-school and early Head Start program currently cares for 44 children from ages 18 months to 4 years old in their toddler and pre-school program. It was a parent of one of those toddlers who told her about the Sierra Harvest Garden Program. “She said, you should sign up and get beds put in the toddler yard,” Foss explained. “So I thought that sounded really cool and inquired about it.”
Foss said the process was simple. After filling out the initial paperwork, she was contacted by the Sierra Harvest Garden Coordinator, Edy Cassell, to determine the space, cost, and need, and then to schedule a time for the team to come out and build the beds. “They brought tools and the wood and built the beds in the yard, “Foss said. “We were inside so the kids could watch from the windows. Once the soil was delivered, the kids were able to scoop it into the beds.” Foss said Sierra Harvest supplies organic, locally grown starts and seeds for two years based on the season. “The team from Sierra Harvest showed the kids how to put the starts in the soil and let the kids take turns planting. The kids water the plants and the teachers fill in.” She added the kids love taking on the responsibility of caring for the garden at the school.
She added, “The kids love to use water cans and buckets to keep the soil wet – even some of the toddlers are interested in helping. We have been able to explain how the garden works and once the vegetables are ready to harvest, we let the kids pick what they want. They especially love picking the little tomatoes.”
Supplying the children with fresh produce and introducing them to gardening are just a couple of the benefits of the program. “We used the produce in our cooking projects in the classroom and it lets the kids try new things.” Foss continued, “When they see that they can come up and choose something to try, even if they don’t like it the first time, they watch their peers. When a child sees everyone else is eating something, we notice they are more apt to try it themselves. Sometimes they will feed each other.”
Foss said, “We are very grateful for the Sierra Gardens program. It gives the children another opportunity to try something new, especially something that is outside and has something to do with plants and nature. We love that it is something new they are exposed to and can try, and they take pride in it.”
Some parents have been inspired to plant a little garden at home, even if just in a window. The Sierra Gardens Program may have even planted the seed for a farmer of the future.
Apply for a garden and get more information about the Sierra Garden program.