A Pro-Growth Policy
For the children of Newfields Elementary School, “getting their hands dirty” meant way more than just playing in the mud. It meant a crash course in backyard agriculture and a new perspective on food.
Newfields Elementary School is still for the summer, its classrooms quiet, its hallways absent of activity. Yet a few steps away from the school building are six raised-bed gardens, monuments to a project designed to give the Newfields students the opportunity to experience their own brand of micro-agriculture and get their hands dirty–literally.
“The children really took ownership of their gardens,” said Kim Truesdale, the coordinator for 5210, the United Way-sponsored initiative aimed at promoting healthy lifestyles among kids, and the point person for the project. “They were so excited when their plants sprouted.”
For Kim, this project was emblematic of her mission: to see kids of all ages charting paths to choices that result in better nutrition and physical wellbeing. The 5210 credo: five servings of fruits and vegetables, two hours or less of screen time a day, one hour of moderate to vigorous physical activity, and zero servings of soda and sugar-sweetened drinks, which Kim notes as being the single largest delivery system of calories to children. 5210 is overseen by United Way partner agency SeaCare Health Services.
The garden creation kicked off earlier in the year, with Master Gardeners from the University of New Hampshire visiting with students and teachers, offering tips and training. Following the garden construction (built by Kim’s husband), the growing project became a joint affair, with kids and teachers working in the soil each day.
Each student cultivated his or her own square-foot of soil, planting, tending and watering the seedbeds, and, eventually harvesting the yield, which were shared and eaten during lunch at the end of the school year.
“Some kids who took part didn’t eat many green vegetables and they liked it,” Kim says. “To me, that was one of the most exciting aspects.”
Now, with summer vacation in full swing, the gardens remain idle–from the outside at least. A closer look would reveal that they are far from docile: beats, carrots, lettuce and other assorted crops churn through the soil, blossoming ever upward, their leaves spilling over the 2×4 planks that constitute their boundaries.
Life is active in this dirt. It awaits the embrace of more tiny hands.