The Minnesota Green program has had a big impact on the Sherburne County Master Gardeners’ community gardening projects, and they’ve only participated in the program for one year. “Before Minnesota Green, I was spending money out of my own pocket to get plants for our kids’ gardening programs. I was happy to do it, but it got expensive,” says Liz Lewis, who has been a master gardener since 2014 and owns the business Garden of Eden in Otsego. She’s started five kids’ gardening programs in the county. “Liz is so enthusiastic,” says Judy Thorson, Liz’s fellow master gardener. “The kids love her, and so do the parents—they ask her gardening questions too.”
The master gardeners teach junior master gardener curriculum at the Great River Regional Library—which has a butterfly garden—and the Sherburne County fairgrounds, and do gardening basics and vegetable gardening programs with kids at the YMCA and Boys and Girls Club. Many of the junior master gardeners in training are also involved in 4-H.
“For the kids’ programs, we teach from the soil up,” says Liz, “but we mainly do vegetable gardening because harvesting vegetables is a fun experience. We’ve made things like salsa, and I made some zucchini bread and brought it in for them to try.” They talk about pollinators and other insects (the butterfly garden at the library comes in handy for this topic), garden design and location, how different plants grow, weeds, trees and more. They planted sunflower seeds so the kids could see how different plants can grow very large, and they’ve done games with prizes for kids who answer gardening questions correctly.
While some of the produce grown by the kids is used for the programs, they also donate to the local food shelf—over 300 pounds of food was donated in 2016—which teaches kids about sharing and generosity.
The kids are excited to show what they’ve learned; for a program at the library, the master gardeners bought supplies for a terrarium class, and one of the kids taught it. “It was so cute watching the little boy teach the class; he was so excited and really knew what he was doing,” says Liz.
“Inspiring new generations to want to garden—helping kids see a different perspective of the world outside of TV and video games—has been the most rewarding part of being a master gardener,” says Liz. “Plus, it’s great to hear kids teach their parents about something like weeds—they really retain a lot of information and are always excited to share their knowledge.” Perhaps there should be a new proverb in the gardening community: teach a kid to garden, and they’ll teach their parents.