Plant a garden, add a kid… watch them grow!

Every now and then, I get a reality check when it comes to my kids. I am sure this happens to every parent…you’ll be driving along or just working through your day and something occurs to you about how different your own childhood was compared to your kids today.

I remember long summer days when I was set loose with a PB&J sandwich and my bike (no helmet). Time was measured by light through the neighborhood trees and the sound of the Ice Cream truck. My acceptable range of travel was about nine blocks. I didn’t have a cell phone. I was expected home for dinner in reasonable condition at a reasonable time.

That was then.

Now I worry a little about my kids. Trying to find the balance between freedom and security. They are still young at 17 and 14. I can’t just rely on good neighbors to watch them. There are more cars everywhere. I don’t like the news headlines about crime and predators. And I hear that sometimes the Ice Cream truck guy sells illegal substances.

But balance is what nature is all about. And the thing I am most pleased about now for kids growing up these days is their opportunity to be involved with a vegetable garden somewhere, even something as off the wall as a vertical farm. Communal gardens are popping up everywhere from empty lots and vacant roof tops, to college, elementary, and high school projects. And these gardens grow some beautiful produce and flowers. What a wonderful thing for our children today to be able to grow food from seed, learn the challenges of nurturing something and then eat their own project!

There are areas in New Orleans called “food deserts” because after Katrina, no one rebuilt grocery stores to offer fresh fruit and vegetables and other staples. Some people lived more than a mile from any kind of food for purchase and had no transportation. This is changing thanks to community partners who are making food more accessible. Some neighborhoods even have a “Grocery Bus” that travels to these desert areas so that “slow food” can be an option.

Now, most of my kids’ friends are aware of the kind of work we do – promoting, designing, installing and maintaining roof top farms, edible walls and indoor chef’s gardens or involved in a garden plot of some sort. Maybe their parents are growing their own vegetables or fruit. Or perhaps their church has a communal garden available for anyone to grow their own, even if they live in an apartment with no yard. And we have answers for that – the Tower Garden that fits on any deck or patio.

There is something deep inside of us that feels a need to connect with nature. In fact a whole new field of interest is called “Biophilia” that addresses our relationship with plants and animals. This probably relates to that simple desire and thrill of planting a seed, and watching it grow. Maybe because it’s Spring that I see the gardens around me more vividly. While we give up some memories generation to generation, we hope the memories that replace them are as meaningful. And if my kids can plant a garden of their own when they are older because of what they learned when they were young. Maybe it’s not such a bad tradeoff.

I must run. I think I hear the ice cream truck!