2023 – Central District All Faculty Symposium – 4-H Youth Development
L. Sanderson, UF/IFAS Extension, Bushnell, FL.
Situation: Existing research supports that youth gardens can not only influence healthy eating choices, and manage childhood obesity, but also can provide a sense of well-being and may lead to gardening endeavors later in life. Gardening engages youth who work together to plant, maintain and harvest fruits and vegetables. In multiple studies, children who grow their own food are more likely to eat a diet consisting of food they have grown. The combination of fresh fruits and vegetables and physical activity in the garden can lead to a reduction in childhood obesity. Additionally, students who participated in the Junior Master Gardener program had greater science achievement gains in gardening according to (Dirks & Orvis). Methods: UF/IFAS Extension Sumter County Master Gardener Volunteers sponsor a large youth garden for over 40 youth every week during the school year. The participating school-age “Busy Bugs Junior Master Gardeners” selected the Youth Garden as an after-school activity with over 20 attending one of two days the garden as part of the Sumter County Youth Center in Bushnell, FL. Youth learn as they sow seeds, propagate plants, and grow, and harvest fruits and vegetables. Results: Since 2017, 1,479 youth have gardened at over 144 Youth Garden days. Youth demonstrate vegetable gardening knowledge gained through observation by Master Gardener Volunteers. In 2022, participating youth not only took fresh vegetables home to enjoy, but also donated 750 heads of lettuce they had grown to the Hope Center Food Bank in Bushnell, FL. Conclusion: The Master Gardener Volunteers are sharing their knowledge, and the Busy Bugs Junior Master Gardeners are growing a community.