A New West mom is hoping to grow young minds through gardening.
Jennifer Baetz used a Neighbourhood Small Grant to create gardening kits for local kids, with the idea being to provide low-income families and immigrant families with a fun activity to do during the pandemic. She hopes the kits encourage interest among local families in gardening.
“I thought it would be really great for kids to have hands-on experience,” she said. “Kids usually aren’t fearful. They’ll get their hands dirty and they’ll get started and maybe influence the parents to hopefully be inspired to start growing food on the balcony.”
Baetz said she was lucky enough to get a plot in a local community garden, but not every family has that opportunity. Her family also grows vegetables in containers on their small condo patio.
“A lot of families are like ‘I have never gardened before. Do I need a bunch of space?’” she said. “I’m like, ‘Oh no, the concept is #urbangardening – this is for balconies, small condos.’”
With funding from the Neighbourhood Small Grant program, Baetz put together 10 free kits for families that include everything a child needs to get started – gardening tools, a germination tray and pots, coconut coir (a growing substance made of coconut), and several kinds and sizes of seeds, including beans, lettuce, wild flowers and microgreens. It’s all packaged in a tote that’s been screen-printed by her partner Craig Thompson.
“I got a bunch of those (microgreens) seeds from West Coast Gardens, because they come up really fast,” she said. “That’s really exciting for kids to see something coming out of the soil when they just put the seed in. Within two weeks you can start eating it.”
Keen to include a book in the kits, Baetz approached Anne Uebbing at Kinder Books in River Market about potential children’s books related to gardening. The kits include a Gumboot Kids book and activity booklet.
“I really wanted to have a book,” she noted. “Being the weather that we have, if they have done their little garden, it’s nice to have something that if it’s a rainy day they can come inside and read.”
When talking to families about her project, some parents expressed an interest in purchasing kits for their own families as they don’t have time to gather all the items needed to get started on their own. As a result, Baetz has started a “little side hustle” and is selling kits for $30.
“They don’t need anything,” she said. “All they’d really need is just water and a little square space that gets an adequate amount of sun.”
Baetz’s 18-month-old son Cyrus is living proof that youngsters really dig gardening.
“He just loves looking around, digging around, getting up close to plants,” she said. “We had him plant bean seeds, and they’re big enough that he can hold them in his hands and drop them in the soil, cover it up. He wants to water it.”
Aside from the fun they gave while gardening, Baetz thinks it’s beneficial for kids to know where the food on their table comes from – and the effort that goes into growing it. On top of that, they get the satisfaction of eating freshly grown food.
“Even if they are not putting it together initially when they are planting the seeds, once they start to see it come up, I think it will inspire them,” she said. “Just because you live in a city doesn’t mean you can’t grow food. You’ve got to start somewhere. So many moms are like ‘I don’t have room on the balcony; I’ve got a bunch of stuff out there.’ I was like you need a really small little tray, start somewhere and see what you can do with a tiny amount of space.”
For more information on the kits, check out the Gardens4Kids on Instagram or Facebook, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.