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Youth Learn to Grow Their Own Food

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Madison County is a rural community where many citizens face hunger and issues with food accessibility. Many children are several generations removed from the farm, and fewer families keep a garden, therefore more children are growing up without the knowledge or skills to grow their own food.

Madison County 4-H is responding to food insecurity and the need for gardening education by providing 4-H Soil Solutions School Enrichment to 3rd-grade classes. Students learn about soil properties, plant growth, and sustainability. Most importantly, youth learn where food comes from and how to grow a garden to produce their own food. The ability to grow a garden is a life skill that may help children and their families become more food secure at home.

One hundred eighty-eight students in every 3rd-grade class at Brush Creek, Mars Hill, and Hot Springs Elementary Schools participate in 4-H Soil Solutions annually. Madison County 4-H provides educational supplies to teachers, so students can have hands-on learning experiences in their classrooms and school gardens. Students learned about soils, plant growth, and pollinators as they planted and harvested cool-season gardens at their schools.

Teachers, serving as 4-H volunteers, administered pre- and post-tests on knowledge and experience evaluations. On average, post-test scores were 70% better than pre-test scores. Test results indicate an increase in knowledge of soil properties, pollination, and plant growth. Many children had never grown their own food before, therefore learning a valuable life skill that they can use now and in the future.

In response to the question, How have soils been important in your life, students wrote (direct quotes, with spelling corrected):

  • I plant and eat the veggies / Because that’s how you plant food
  • It makes food for us / They give us food / They provide food
  • Gardening / To grow food, plants, flowers
  • They’ve helped me make money
  • Soils have been good to me by letting me put my toys in the mud