Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Green Teens in the Garden

In the weeks since I rescued Bob, the angry discarded toy, from the bottom of a flood debris pile, he and I have become better acquainted. Recently, he made it clear that his name is not Bob, and that he is most definitely not a sponge. He refuses to divulge his real name, so we call him Mr. Green Pants, GP for short.

After his hawk scare, GP was frightened to return to the garden. I told him I was expecting a garden visit from green teens who wished to congratulate him on his survival. Still he would not risk it until--figuring hawks are not much attracted to potatoes--he disguised himself as Mr. PH.

GP asserted that green teens would be hard to find anywhere, never mind in my backyard garden. (He’s a bit jaded about young people in general since he was so rudely deep-sixed by one from a speeding car.) Of course, it is difficult for a five inch tall toy to see above the foliage, and those big green glasses are more hindrance than help, but he perked right up when his huge, borrowed ears heard voices.

The girls were enthusiastically discussing organic and/or urban gardening. GP and I eavesdropped as Jenna, the lovely redhead, shared her experience at Orchard Farm in Princeton, NJ with Jessica, her brilliant BFF. (Orchard Farms, Caroline & Robert Phinney,, 1052 Cherry Hill Rd, Princeton NJ 0854.)

Orchard Farm

“What impressed me most about the farm,” Jenna said, “was that they used every plant and animal to their advantage. When the plant was done for its season, the cows were moved into the area to graze and provide manure. Then they would move the chickens in to scratch at and even the new area. Then, if the ground was out of nutrients, they would put in a plant that added more to the soil. Or if there was too much they would put a plant that would take some away.”

Great description, Jenna, of sustainable, organic gardening!

Teens across the U.S.A., and beyond, are involved in urban/organic gardening. In many cases, teens are leading the way for gardeners of all ages. The height of urban gardening is practiced by som
e intrepid teens in New York City. As reported by Brian Merchant in Treehugger, these teens “have set about cultivating green roofs on skyscrapers around the city. Their goal is to create a citywide ‘skyscraper garden’ across Manhattan.”
These teens are caring for seedlings on top of the ninth floor of a building in midtown Manhattan. The seedlings will then be transported to the rooftops of buildings all over the city. Building green roofs is an important business with significant positive environmental benefits. This experience may prepare young gardeners for future jobs within the growing green industry.

Martin Middle School, Austin Texas, will be entering its fifth year with green teens gardening on campus. Past gardens have yielded Texas-sized vegetables!

The Cleveland Botanical Garden in Ohio founded a work/study program called the Green Corps for teens attending metropolitan high schools. Teens transform vacant lots into urban farms, growing fruits, vegetables and flowers while creating a healthier, greener community. They earn as they participate in the production and marketing of products they’ve grown. Their Ripe from Downtown Salsa is a best seller.

In Portland, Oregon, teens produce vegetables and herbs on Boyd Street Urban Farm. As teens garden, they learn hands on sustainability concepts. While growing and distributing food to elderly residents, teens also engage with the wider community.

After learning about green teens, GP has a new respect for young people, acknowledging that his initial encounter with one rude human may have prejudiced him. I suspect, though, the real reason for his change of heart is that the Jenna and Jessica spiffed up his wardrobe. He’s now sporting a brand new pair of green pants.

In my previous blog (7/03/09) I suggested reading Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. I cannot overstate its value and high interest level. HS students or teachers who wish to use this book in the classroom may find the following web page helpful:

Below are resources to help teens grow gardens and books to further the green teen lifestyle:

Green teens — let me hear from you. What are you doing to get the word out and inspire others?