Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Children's Garden

Weeks ago I was en route to the Petaluma Seed Bank with Wayne and Lee. With all of us cooped up in a vehicle for a small off the farm field trip it was a good time for idea-sharing. This was way back when Lee revealed to me she wanted a Children's Garden area this season. I connected with the idea with seemed a natural course of action for the people and visitors I have learned so much about with recent time spent in the farm stand. A destination just for the little ones would be perfect!

As time progressed, random ideas came together here and there in addition to all of the other things we are always trying to accomplish to improve and maintain the farm. What it would be and how it would operate were questions that challenged us. It could not be too much work for us or for kids, it should be interesting and fun and not cause too much extra work for us, who would manage it when there was no spare time as it is?

Adjacent to and east of the farm stand is a section of land (we call it SE Section 9 in the planning and record-keeping scheme) that has now been designated as a destination area for the little ones this season. It may not have it all as there are so many potential ideas with a project like this....what it will have is pumpkins, a tunnel of pole beans, ground cherries and cherry tomatoes for harvesting, opportunities to weed and engage with cultivation (parental supervision required), flowers for aesthetic enjoyment and perhaps some picking, potato planting and harvesting, and who knows what else.

We have rennovated a back corner of the farm stand as a registration and check point for the Children's Garden. This chalk board has had my handwriting from over a year ago permanently chalk-inked to promote a 4 for $20 on dry chile is now re-painted and transformed into an info center for smaller sized farm visitors. Please stop in if you fit the previously mentioned profile. What you will find? Suggestions for what might be done in the Children's Garden that day, baskets for harvesting, flowers for taking, a sign up sheet where you may drop an email address to receive updates about events that will occur (an upcoming potato planting will be the first of these), and a binder where we ask that a picture or write up of your child's experience might be inserted to share with others and serve as a memory book for the 2010 season for us all. We must give great thanks to customer and educator Lisl Christie who has taken an active interest in contributing time, ideas and resources towards organizing. This allows us employees of the farm to focus more closely on our jobs (and the reamining 20+ acres of the farm) while still being able to afford to offer land for fun and education to all those interested visitors, large or small.

Farm friend, customer and frequenter Sara brought her boys, Radly and Finn, by to "work" in the garden last week. This is a rough time in the season as weeding and cultivation tend to be high on the list of "things to do." There is some sparse, early harvesting to be done in the ground cherries (harvesting has much more immediate reward than weeding, obviously). Attempting both weeding and harvesting, the farm stand proved a lure to the boys who are well trained to know that strawberry samples are available back under the awning they know so well. Focusing on weeding takes some real personal investment and perhaps these guys will get there by the end of the season. For now, they have removed a small share of "bad" plants to make more room for "good" plants and have already discovered the bean tunnel that is just made up of tiny bean plants at this time. Watching these items grow, change and live out their annual life is what the experience is all about.

So what is the Children's Garden at Tierra? It is a destination, a demonstration, and at times an activity area. Please be careful, have respect for the farm, the land, other visitors, the plants and enjoy a small slice of food production that welcomes your periodic visits.

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