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Gardening: What’s In It for Teens

by Jane Wangersky | June 17th, 2016 | Seasonal, Teens

Teen-in-a-gardenIt’s not really fair, but when you mention teens and gardening, people are likely to think of a mini-grow op. Or, if they’ve been following the news, they may think of teens getting high on garden seeds. (Yes, some seeds, like the all too appropriately named Sleepy Grass and Heavenly Blue Morning Glory, contain LSA, a substance much like LSD.) Besides, anything that involves both responsibility and digging in the dirt may seem both too grownup and too childish for teens.

On the other hand, there are teens who took up gardening as younger kids and have stuck with it, and what they get from gardening has changed along with them. For example, Adam Jandreau of St. John Plantation, Maine, started growing vegetables because of an interest in his own nutrition (Adam has autism, which often causes people to be very particular about their food). Now it’s become a business.

He participates in Katie’s Krops, something that began with a small girl and a cabbage plant — which didn’t stay small. After Katie Stagliano, now 17, donated her first (40-pound!) cabbage to a soup kitchen, she set out to get other gardeners, especially youth, to grow food for the hungry. The initiative she started offers help with this — each year grants are given to gardeners ages 9 to 16.

As we can see from both these stories, there are several reasons teens might want to start (or keep) gardening:

Taking charge of their own food supply can bring teens a sense of independence — not to mention, as a way to get the fruits and vegetables they actually like, it’s better than needling their moms to buy them.

Growing their own also means healthier fruits and vegetables — very fresh, very local, even organic if they want to raise them that way.

Growing food to give away gives them a chance to give back to the larger community and feel more connected to it. It can also take care of the mandatory service hours many students have to complete for graduation. Volunteering at a community garden means the responsibility is shared, and the teen gets to know people and builds up a reputation as a worker.

It can even turn into a moneymaking venture — Adam Jandreau now supplies vegetables to a local co-op and also sells and delivers to neighbors.

If you want your teen to take an interest in gardening, this is the kind of thing that just might persuade them.

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