Gardening has changed from yesterday to today, and tomorrow is our challenge in the lives of our children.

Looking back on when I was a kid, it was normal for us to know where our food came from and how it was grown or raised. We were part of the growing and harvesting of the family garden and feeding and raising our own animals for food.

Need to educate food source is not grocery store

Today, our children are two to three generations removed from that part of our family’s culture.

If you talk to a child today and ask them where vegetables come from, they will tell you the grocery store instead of a garden or farm and the same for any meats or eggs.

They have no idea that vegetables are raised in a garden or that our milk, meat and eggs come from animals raised on farms.

Many health issues stem from lack of fresh foods in diet

We must get back to our grassroots culture and educate our children about where our food comes from and how to grow, harvest and prepare those healthy foods for our nourishment and healthy eating.

Today’s challenges with obesity, diabetes, hypertension and many other health issues stem from the lack of a healthy, balanced diet with healthy, fresh foods in our diets. Our children are our future; and we must teach them these basic ways of living healthy to carry this into the future and change the tide of unfit living through a balanced diet with lots of fresh vegetables, fruits and lean meats.

Move away from fast foods, those full of sodium

Our first “go-to” most of the time is fast foods, pizza and hamburgers – highly processed foods full of sodium and chemicals that affect us all in different ways.

According to the Texas Demographic Center, Victoria County is one of several counties in Texas with a higher than average incidence of diabetes in youth under 18 years of age. The higher incidences of diabetes is mainly due to our fast-paced lives and eating cheap fast foods full of fats and other unhealthy things. This is especially true in fixed income families that can’t afford fresh, healthy foods.

If we can teach our kids to raise their own vegetables, we can make it an affordable and healthy way to grow up.

Teach growing vegetables in variety of locations

We can teach our youth that fresh vegetables can be grown anywhere – in pots, large containers, bags of soil, and raised beds – in a relatively small area without the need of a huge garden or farm.

Grow fresh food at home

My goal as a Master Gardener is to educate our youth as well as our adult population to grow their own fresh foods at home.

Raised-bed projects at Victoria County local schools

In the past two years, the Victoria County Master Gardeners have helped along with the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension – Victoria County Office through the Healthy South Texas Initiative to establish raised growing beds in local schools for our children to learn how to raise their own healthy vegetables, harvest them and prepare them for eating.

You would be amazed to see just how interested and eager kids are to learn how to grow a garden. They start first by learning the basics in the classroom and then they follow by planting their own seeds and see how they grow. They then nurture them until they are ready to plant outdoors.

Master Gardeners assist them in the actual planting of their seedlings as well as transplant items they have purchased or grown. They care for the gardens taking turns watering, weeding, cultivating and eliminating bugs that affect their crop.

Once they harvest them, some items go home with the students or they are prepared at the school for the kids to eat and are even eaten raw. It’s amazing to see how eager they are to try vegetables they would never attempt otherwise but do now because they grew the items. Now they know what the items they see in the store are – and where they came from.

Can help make a difference in future generations

If we can get this type of knowledge out to all our children and their parents, we can start making a difference in future generations. Imagine a world with fewer allergies to food, fewer medical issues due to obesity, a huge drop in diabetes and many other benefits from eating natural and living a healthy lifestyle.

We must continue to spread the word through our actions in our daily lives. Let’s educate our children about growing foods today by yesterday’s ways and for tomorrow’s well-being.

The Gardeners’ Dirt is written by members of the Victoria County Master Gardener Association, an educational outreach of Texas A&M AgriLife Extension – Victoria County. Mail your questions in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77901; or vcmga@vicad.com.

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