10 Reasons to Have a Family Vegetable Garden
There are few meals that are as rewarding as one that you’ve prepared featuring produce you’ve grown yourself; as food prices rise and the economy struggles to rebound, it’s also a great way to significantly slash your grocery bill. The benefits of cultivating a vegetable garden are almost endless; here are ten reasons why families might want to consider doing so themselves.
Teaching Kids About Sustainability – One of the most important things the modern child can learn about is sustainability, or acquiring “green” habits and reducing their carbon footprint. Working side-by-side in a garden, especially an organic one, can help parents pass these values on through leading by example.
Hands-On Biology Lessons – Most kids tend to learn things more quickly if they can interact with their lessons and have a hands-on experience. Starting seedlings and nurturing them until harvest is a great way to help kids understand the basics of biology and botany.
Reducing Grocery Bills – As mentioned above, the expense of a garden is almost always significantly offset by the reduction in grocery bills and food costs. Homegrown vegetables cost markedly less to cultivate and have the added bonus of reaching maturity right outside your door, which can also affect fuel usage and car mileage.
Family Project – As kids get older parents often discover that finding common ground becomes increasingly difficult. Getting collectively involved in a big project like a family kitchen garden can provide talking points and a shared interest that makes connecting with tweens and teens a bit less difficult.
Discouraging Sedentary Lifestyle Habits – Kids that are working in a vegetable garden are physically engaged and active, rather than passively entertained by television and video games. Getting kids outside into the fresh air and sunshine can help them form less sedentary habits, which will pay off greatly in the long run.
Improving Diet and Eating Habits – Mushy, bland vegetables that are pulled from a bag in the freezer aren’t typically appealing to the notoriously finicky taste buds of children. However, freshly-harvested produce is at its tasty and nutritious peak, making it easier to coerce children into eating things that are good for them while simultaneously encouraging better eating habits.
Instilling an Appreciation for Hard Work – Spending some of their free time in a garden can help kids gain a new appreciation for the amount of hard work that goes into the growing, harvesting, and preparing of food. When food comes from a grocery store shelf straight into the house, most children have a more difficult time grasping the amount of effort that producing that food requires.
Giving Kids a Sense of Accomplishment – From the moment a seedling first begins to poke through the soil to the eventual harvest of a tangible result of their effort, kids are constantly being rewarded through gardening. As plants grow and thrive, so will a child’s self-esteem and sense of accomplishment.
Teaching Kids Responsibility – Turning a packet of seeds into something that they can eat requires attention and dedication, which can help kids learn a sense of responsibility. Neglecting their plot of earth is almost certain to lead to a lackluster or even non-existent harvest, helping kids understand that some chores cannot be shirked without consequences.
Growing Special and Difficult-to-Find Varieties – A kid who refuses to eat a grocery-bin carrot might be intrigued enough by a red or purple variety to give them a try; recipes that call for produce that isn’t in particularly high demand might be impossible for a non-gardening cook to prepare. The ability to choose rare, heirloom and specialty varieties of vegetables for your family garden is one of the biggest reasons to invest your time and effort as a group into the project.
Urban-dwellers aren’t necessarily excluded from the prospect of gardening, even if they live in apartments or condos without available lawn space. There are often programs set in place in such areas to provide families with small garden plots in exchange for a monthly fee or labor contributions. If you live in a densely populated city, it might be a good idea to check for such programs before giving up the idea of a family garden.