Seminole Garden Project
Situation: Youth in Marion County, Florida are facing a widening gap in their understanding of food systems, specifically, how food comes from the farm to the table. Over the last 200 years, food production in the U.S. has become industrialized and a very small percentage of families still live on farms where they produce their own fruits, vegetables, meats and dairy. By caring for a garden, youth take a hands-on approach in the production and consumption of fresh vegetables. They learn where food comes from and the steps involved in meal preparation. Youth also learn responsibility through caring for their garden and completing a record book. The Seminole Garden is designed to produce enough vegetables to provide for a family of four during the project season. Methods: A garden orientation class was held for youth throughout the county. Participants were informed about how to plant and care for their garden. Participants selected individual, shared, club or school gardens following a specified format. Each participant received an information packet and a record book to complete. Seminole Feeds donated complete gardening kits for each garden which included seeds, fertilizer, and pesticide. Those that wished to grow organic gardens purchased their own seeds and followed the same garden format. In addition, families chose whether or not to apply fertilizer and/or pesticides in regards to cultural practices. The Marion County Master Gardeners donated tomato and bell pepper plants for the project. Results: Record books were evaluated at the conclusion of the garden project. All youth that completed the project received a score of 80% or higher. Extension staff completed field visits and evaluated each garden over criteria which included pest management, overall production, plant diseases and the presence of weeds. Written feedback was given on areas that needed improvement. Conclusion: The Seminole Garden Project is an important tool for youth to learn about the importance of food systems. Producing and consuming fresh vegetables enhances nutritional health. In addition, the community as a whole is enhanced through the social aspects and the community service portion of the project which donates produce to a local soup kitchen. When youth take an active role in their food production, they broaden their knowledge of agriculture as a whole and increase their awareness of food systems in their community.