This article by Brenda Harvieux originally appeared in the September/October issue of Northern Gardener.
One of the goals of the Hy-Vee One Step Grant Program is growing community gardens to provide food and teach about nutrition. The proceeds from sales of One Step Russet Potatoes help fund community garden projects, such as the Master Gardeners of Steele County Hy-Vee One Step Garden in Owatonna.
Master Gardener Deb Arlt, Hy-Vee Dietician Tracy Bjerke and county 4-H Coordinator Missy Koch work together to teach summer childcare students in third through sixth grades about horticulture, 4-H and nutrition.
During weekly lessons, students learn through planting, tending and harvesting their own fruits and vegetables. The program covers botany, entomology, soil science and water conservation as well as the preparation of nutritious snacks with garden ingredients. Some students garden at home and have entered fruits and vegetables at the fair.
“They always at least try the dishes that Tracy and the Hy-Vee chef have made—it’s amazing how peer pressure can sometimes be positive,’ says Deb. Students have tasted smoothies, veggie pizzas, pesto made from radish leaves, chocolate zucchini bread with “some beets snuck in” and kohlrabi salad. The instructors give them the recipes and the produce to take home to their families.
For the last class each year, the students harvest everything that’s left in the garden and bring it to the food shelf. “They’re so proud that they’ve helped other kids and families out,” says Deb. “We hope kids learn where their food comes from and t
hat they try new things but also to make gardening and generosity part of their lives.”