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Youth Garden Growing Gratitude With Health District

The Tolland Youth Garden, a project of the Tolland Garden Paths garden club, is underway. Now the real growth begins, and we're hoping to nourish the interest already stimulated and sprouting.

It wasn’t only Fran Maynard’s most excellent cookies that made our recent Youth Garden Committee meeting so satisfying. The source of our expressed gratitude wasn’t just that all of us got out of the nor’easter without more damage than we were able to handle (you should have heard the positive spin one member put on the fact that a tree limb broke through her bedroom ceiling!). And we weren’t talking along lines of gratitude just because Thanksgiving was around the corner; when we were done checking in on each other’s well-being in health and hearth we talked about the Youth Garden groundbreaking. It already seems ages ago because of that nasty little speed bump called Alfred or Albert or something that interfered with our previously scheduled, post-event meeting.

It was fun for all of us to share who and what we appreciated about the groundbreaking day. I think we’re all fans of the 4-H Piston Pushers. They have good energy and enthusiasm, and you know it never hurts to have connections with heavy equipment operators. They tilled the soil that needed tilling, moved some supplies that needed moving –

Sue Moriarty helped get them there, even though her own Piston Pusher son couldn’t attend. I got the impression that she values her community, her environment, and pursuing her desire to help keep traditions of land/body/machinery connections alive.

I hope you checked out the captioned photos in my last blog. Perne Maynard added a video, too – an excellent collection of photos that shows the people and the process from “planting” the sign to covering the lasagna-style layered beds to “bake” over the winter.

You’ll see that the kids there were doing as much as anyone could want out of such a day. Did you see young Will? He could pull two buckets FULL of compost.  And those girls shoveling mulch? And the young ladies painting our rocks?  Official Student Photographer Kyle Ferguson has a bunch of photos up, too. He did a great job providing both artistic and informative shots.

Even if one of the kids I talked to had said, “My parents made me come,” -- and none of them said that -- I would have been pleased. It would have meant that someone was trying to pass along some good stuff. You know—fresh air, teamwork, community involvement.

I’m grateful to be part of such a perfect project. In a selfish way, I get the feeling of accomplishment and self-esteem boost knowing I’m a part of something useful. I’m grateful that the people I’m working with are not preachy, stuffy, or high-falutin’ in their notions of what we can or should do.

Tolland Paths members held onto this idea for a while, started putting it together, and invited interested parties to join in – to contribute how and what we can, keep it fun, and keep the focus on the kids.

Simple enough. And it can be exciting. We’ve caught the interest of Ande Bloom, Health Education Program Coordinator for Eastern Highlands Health District. Tolland is one of the 10 member towns served by the district. There certainly is potential for real impact. 

Have you seen all the areas of our lives that are touched by the Health Boards? I was floored. Air, water, restaurants…check out the web site! www.ehhd.org

Ande’s video interview of Sandie Benjamin, Youth Garden committee chair, at the groundbreaking can be found at:  http://youtu.be/3DINCK3MDzc. I asked Ande what she sees that is so remarkable about the Tolland Youth Garden. She responded:

            The Eastern Highlands Health District (EHHD) has been working within the ACHIEVE Initiative framework of Policy, Systems, and Environmental changes to build a healthy community. The work being done by the Tolland Youth Garden group is a beautiful example of how changing policy can create environments that support not only healthy eating, but also active living - as tending for and harvesting a garden takes plenty of physical activity that contributes to overall health. The EHHD ACHIEVE Initiative looks forward to working with the Youth Garden team to learn from their work so that other communities can replicate this wonderful initiative. 

            I was very impressed with the ground-breaking & garden creating day that I witnessed. You all have a good recipe for other communities to use, and that is one of the ways that we can team up to build a healthy community.

See, people? There are a lot of answers to the “Why?” of investigating creative notions to better living. So bless you parents, kids, teachers, laborers, donators of materials, money and time – getting the word out, helping with supplies, moving some dirt around. We’ll all help this thing called the Tolland Youth Garden grow, and it will nourish us all. I definitely give thanks for that, not matter what time of year it is. 

Do let us know your thoughts. Do you have suggestions for workshops or lessons? Can you teach a class? Share your knowledge, time or materials?  Chime in! Email committee chair Sandie Benjamin at dsbenj43@comcast.net, or post a comment here or email me at mauclairz@yahoo.com

I look forward to letting you know more about the people who have helped so far, and sharing some of the ideas in the works.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

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