Genetically modified produce. Food deserts. Epidemic obesity and processed foods.
There’s a lot to be aware of when it comes to the food we eat.
The Oklahoma County Master Gardeners and the Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service will team up this summer to help take the mystery out of growing food that is healthy and available.
Oklahoma County Master Gardeners will host two Junior Master Gardener workshops for children ages 8 to 11 from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. June 12 and 21 at the county extension headquarters, 930 N Portland.
The program was designed by volunteers who hold the Oklahoma County Master Gardener certification and draws its curriculum from well-established state and national programs.
Hands-on activities will include harvesting and tasting fresh vegetables, learning parts of plants and the parts we eat, composting and soil fertility, how to plant seeds, playing gardening games and making garden crafts, collecting bugs and identifying good vs. bad bugs, as well as a tour of the Oklahoma County Master Gardeners’ garden with “Mr. Green Jeans.”
In preparation for the more full-scale Junior Master Gardener program, Oklahoma County Master Gardeners launched a pilot program in 2012 that continues to operate at the Urban Mission, 3737 N Portland, as a part of the organization’s after-school curriculum.
“That went really well,” said Judy Morton, Master Gardener and workshop coordinator. “We were trying to see how this program would fit into our community. … How receptive our audience would be.”
Master Gardener volunteers worked with 12 children in the program who planted their own garden spaces.
“They would plant what they wanted … and take home what they grew to share with their families. They grew tomatoes, peppers, carrots, potatoes,” Morton said. “What we try to teach the kids is that you can do this. It doesn’t take a whole lot of money. We try to teach them skills to let them be individual —empowered to do this on their own.”
As part of the after-school program, children could earn “lettuce bucks” to buy water hoses, shovels and other items that could be taken home and used in a family garden, Morton said.
“Once you’ve caught the gardening bug, there’s no going back,” Morton said. “Gardening provides an opportunity to get outside to connect with nature with the added benefit of physical exercise. We want to encourage children to put down their video games and get their hands in the dirt. Watching plants grow from seeds or bulbs into flowers or vegetables can be an inspirational experience.”
Junior Master Gardener workshops
Each workshop is limited to 20 children. The cost of the workshop is $20 per child, which includes materials and a Junior Master Gardener T-shirt. Participants are asked to bring a sack lunch and to wear sunscreen. The deadline to register is May 29. To register, call 713-1125 or access the extension website at http://oces.okstate.edu/oklahoma.