By Joe Durand
I decided to become a $20 monthly donor this year after many years of volunteering and being a donor from time to time. After participating in just about every aspect of GTGK programming and organizational activities, two things stands out to me as absolutely worth supporting in a much larger way.
First, it’s about the relationship between kids and food that GTGK nurtures. Relationship at GTGK is more than about giving kids interesting taste experiences, it’s more than provisioning healthy food programs at school (goodness knows how important that is) and it’s more than introducing kids to farmers who produce our food and are so committed feeding us all.
It’s the relationship between the plant and the child, the plant (in hand) to mouth interaction in the garden, with the food that they grow, that’s so important. One of the cool things GTGK does with the little ones is to plant a sweet and sour garden, Sorrel and Stevia (Stevia is 40 times sweeter than sugar, and Sorrel is known as “sour-leaf”) so that the kids are encouraged to taste both plants in the garden. The same is true for cherry tomatoes, mouse melons and basil and all others. They learn first hand (pun intended) that food is grown, how it tastes when fresh, what its texture is, raw or sometimes cooked.
I met a GTGK graduate a few years ago who was effusive about her experience in the GTGK garden program.. She said that it shaped her so she became that person in her family and circle of friends who was always open to trying new foods, new tastes and cuisines. Recently I met this same person and she was excited to tell me she had started a catering business here in Toronto, and she linked it back to those early experiences of growing, preparing and tasting food in the GTGK gardens. I support GTGK because I support kids knowing where their food comes from, how it tastes and how to grow it. Many other food organizations are amazing at provisioning, showing, introducing foods but GTGK fosters the relationship which is the key, I think, to lasting healthy choices.
Secondly – It’s not about dirt, cuz dirt is inert. It’s soil! It’s alive!
One of the great moments for me as a GTGK volunteer is seeing kids when they learn soil is alive and not dirt. Dirt is the stuff on your shoes, in the gutter. Soil is full of microbes, bacteria, fungi, insects and WORMS!! Yes WORMS!! All kids learn about composting, about taking leftover food and organic waste and turning it into soil. They see the buckets of cafeteria scraps go into the bin and weeks later they turn out fresh black soil! Along the way they examine it, find the worms and insects, and see the whitish fungi growing. For some it’s the first time they see a worm or any insect other than a fly, and there’s lots of “Eww-“ ing and “grossing out”. As they get older they learn about what the worms do, and they learn about the role of microbes and the thermophilic compost actions. What’s that, you say? When waste decomposes it creates heat. In the fall and winter kids go outside to the compost bins , lift the lid and when they mix it a cloud of steam escapes. They can put their hands into the compost bin and feel the heat. Because making soil is an active, living process. You can see the lights go on, the connections being made. They get taught healthy living tasty plants need healthy living soil. As they grow they learn about the soil food web, nutrient cycling, about nitrogen and carbon and their interplay in building soil.
I am supporting the GTGK 20/20 campaign because Green Thumbs provides children and youth the hands-on opportunities they need to grow healthy and respect the soil that gives life!
Joe Durand, a founding board member and #1 volunteer