Spotlight: Renewing the Countryside Garden in a Box

This article originally appeared in the January/February 2018 issue of Northern Gardener. If you are interested in the Garden in a Box program, contact author Sam Johnson at MSHS.

If you’re like me and had two working parents growing up, you often spent time at a neighbor’s with all of the local kids in a day-care program. Goldfish, Cheerios and juice-boxes were staple snacks every day. With Renewing the Countryside’s Farm to Early Care program in partnership with Garden-in-a-Box, you’ll find homegrown fruits and vegetables, too.

Children enjoy working on the Garden in a Box gardens at Renewing the Countryside.

The Renewing the Countryside program revolves around supporting a healthy local food system in Minnesota. This includes getting farm-to-school concepts to childcare settings to improve early childhood nutrition through education, outreach and training. From 2013 to 2017, the group has reached more than 225 child-care providers and other early care and education professionals and the thousands of children in their care. Over the past few years, MSHS has worked with 20 of these daycare providers.

Garden-in-a-Box is a great starter-kit for child care providers looking to include gardening in their programs. The child care providers manage the gardens and youth participants harvest the produce. With gardens placed at private homes hosting kids up to five days a week, the youth get a constant and personal gardening experience. And the kids love getting in the garden. One group reported how excited they were to weed the garden. Another reported they dressed the kids up with straw hats and then pretended to be farmers for a day. Every visit I made to these day care providers was greeted with children from 2 to 10 years of age excitedly showing me their ripening strawberries and tomatoes. These experiences will stay with them for the rest of their lives, providing a love for gardening and fresh foods.

—Sam Johnson

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