Do you remember your first gardening experience? Did you garden as a child, or come to it in adulthood?
My gardening experience began as a kid. As a child I was always digging somewhere in the yard and I have distinct memories of walking through tomato jungles. If you ask my parents, I still have an intense love for tomato sandwiches and there is nothing better than the scent of dill in the sunshine. Some part of me still looks at gardening as a fantastic adventure.
Can you tell us a bit about your previous work experience with outdoor programs, and why you were interested in the Crestwood gardener position?
I have worked with students and the general public at several place-based environmental learning centers like Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center in Finland, Minnesota. These opportunities highlighted the importance in allowing individuals to construct personal awareness while creating a stronger sense of place. As an informal educator it is very gratifying to observe students, as they begin to understand ecological principles and recognize processes and patterns while analyzing and evaluating human impacts in both natural and constructed environments. Some day I hope to develop a farm-based environmental learning center where students can follow the journey of food from planting to harvest and beyond.
Why are school garden programs important, in your opinion?
School gardens act as a vehicle to help children and their families gain a better understanding of where their food comes from. They serve to inspire individuals both young and old to take an active interest in their future while fostering a stronger environmental connection.
What vegetables or flowers are particularly good to grow with kids? Why?
Sunflowers, Dragon’s Tongue beans, nasturtium, cherry tomatoes and pumpkins are all wonderful things to grow with children.
Sunflowers are fascinating because they can grow to be quite large and they face the sun no matter where it is in the sky. Nasturtiums are colorful, edible, and quite silly (because you’re eating flowers). Cherry tomatoes are snack sized garden goodness and everyone likes to grow pumpkins. As for the beans, I think Dragon’s Tongue says it all.
What is the biggest challenge working with groups of children?
In all my years working with children, I have found that creating rapport and maintaining engagement can be substantial challenges.
Do you have a funny story or inspiring anecdote from your experience with outdoor programs that you'd like to share?
Its difficult to choose just one. Perhaps the most striking was a little boy that didn’t know that carrots grew underground, instead he thought they simply came from the supermarket.
Is there anything else you want us to know about you?
I look forward to this exciting experience with great anticipation. Let the gardening adventures begin!