Years ago, when I worked as a farmer apprentice, I worked for a German immigrant farmer, Trauger. He had learned his trade as a child during WWII, trying to find ways to feed himself and his family. After the war, he took over the management of a community farm in Germany. A decade later he made his way to the United States where he helped found not only a thriving community farm but also the larger community-supported agriculture movement.
One day during my apprenticeship, Trauger drove all of us apprentices to a workshop at another farm. As we cruised along the highway he sucked in his breath and remarked, “All this land! I can’t believe all this land is here and no one is farming it!”
Coming from Europe’s crowded landscape where every patch of land is precious, he could not get over the wide expanses of wilderness in America. And he said this while traveling through somewhat heavily settled northern New England – not even the western United States.
He couldn’t believe people here weren’t grabbing every bit of land they could grow in and planting seeds or grazing cattle.
Trauger’s perspective stuck with me, merged with other realizations, and grew a solid belief that everyone should have a garden. If you have access to a patch of earth, you should dig in. Grow something to sustain yourself. Feed yourself.
And when it comes down to it, there is absolutely nothing like spinach picked 20 minutes ago in your salad. Beefy, tender and mild . . . Even the best farmer’s market can’t match this.
But it goes deeper than this . . . When you garden – health, sanity, respect, security and responsibility grow inside of you
I’ve already described why gardening is an essential part of my home business success.
It’s also a core part of our family life. (You may want to check out this post about great gardening activities for kids.)
Here’s why I urge you to plant a garden – however humble – with your family this year . . .
Why A Family + Garden = Health You Can’t Get Anywhere Else
Our garden grows responsibility. If they want strawberries, my children have to weed and mulch the strawberry patch. Despite their whines, they’ve had many a summer’s worth of potato bug squishing duty. It means mashed potatoes in the winter. It’s a very easy way for them to see how their work can produce different outcomes.
Our garden grows strong bodies. Every growing season we spend several days out in the heat for hours working on various gardening projects. Thanks to the garden, our children have learned how to handle hard work.Sure they complain a little but over the years they’ve learned to manage the challenge better and better.
Our garden grows healthy eaters. Fresh-picked vegetables are completely different from vegetables harvested hours, days or even weeks before. Since we can enjoy vegetables in their prime, they taste better. My kids have learned to enjoy new foods like dandelion greens and parsnips and discover that old ones aren’t so bad. The bean pole tent has often been a favorite snacking haven. And my daughter discovered she has a passion for roasted beets.
Our garden grows minds. Our garden has been a place of learning. From wondering about what worms do in the winter . . . to learning to identify plants – our children’s brains have grown many a gardening-inspired wrinkle.
Our garden grows self-reliance. We’ve had times when we counted every penny. Yet even though we barely had enough each month to get by, I could make sure my kids ate well thanks to the magic of soil, water and sun working together. On a larger perspective, despite the comfort and security we enjoy right now, my husband and I are always keenly aware of how often seemingly secure cultures have their peace ripped out from under them. By gardening we give ourselves a little more insurance if things should change for the worse.
Our garden grows perspective. It’s a lot harder to waste food when you really understand how much work it took to get it to your table. Really. The converse is true as well – it’s amazing how good food tastes when you’ve grown it yourself. Food is way undervalued in this country. Gardening helps you understand how valuable food really is.
Our garden grows satisfaction in life’s simple pleasures. We don’t buy our children a lot of toys or gadgets or go on vacations. Instead, our children have learned to enjoy the simple luscious enjoyment of the first peach of the year.
Our garden grows generosity. My son used to love bringing our extra kale to the food pantry. Of course, he was excited by the donuts they offered as a thank you. But he also bathed in the oohs and ahhs from the people who watched him carry his bags bursting with greenness in. And even within our tight family circle, our kids have had to learn to share the raspberries and plums they pick, understanding that what goes around comes around.
Gardening grows so much more than just good vegetables. It helps you and your children grow in multiple dimensions.
If you’ve been debating about starting a garden, stop quibbling. Just do it. Like all things we recommend at Fit Family Together, start small. Plant a few tomatoes and some lettuce. Ours started as a single 20-foot bed and now covers almost 4000 square feet! Over the years our garden grew as we grew with it!
Dig your hands in the dirt, look up at your children’s serious look as they watch a bug and you’ll soon understand why I say
Your Family + A Garden = Health You Can’t Get Anywhere Else.
When you plant a garden, health in all dimensions is the harvest.
Have a gardening insight? Please share below.
Want some extra help to get going? Check out my list of the best gardening books.
About Sarah Clachar And Fit Family Together
Since expecting their first Since expecting their first child, Sarah and her husband Cassius have made fitness a core part of their family life. From biking to hiking . . . from the heart of New York City to a farm in New England, they have found a way to stay active together. And through all this exercising as a family they discovered that family fitness builds not only strong bodies – but stronger families.
A professional health writer with a BA in biology, gardener and foodie Sarah brings a wealth of expertise in nutrition and health. A personal trainer and inveterate tinkerer, Cassius brings innovation to making family fitness work.
Ready to make family fitness part of your family life? Take the Fit Family Together 7 Day Family Fitness Challenge and put your own family fitness plan together.