Lane County youth learn about farm-to-table in 4-H gardening program

Lane County Junior Master Gardeners with plants they grew from seed as part of an experiment.

Most Americans, including teachers, are generations removed from the farm. This disconnect often leaves a gap in people’s understanding of how food moves from farm to table. 

Oregon State University Extension’s 4-H program in Lane County is filling that hole. Through the 4-H Junior Master Gardener program, students in elementary, middle and high school explore gardening as they plant and tend a seed or vegetable start, learn about soil health and take plants home to grow in their own garden plot or container.

In the 2018-19 school year, a team of 12 OSU Master Gardener adult volunteers worked with Extension staff to offer in-classroom and afterschool gardening experiences to 85 students at Oakhill Elementary and Middle School and Kalapuya High School. This August, they piloted a new gardening day camp at the OSU Master Gardener Demonstration Garden in Eugene.

“They benefited from the new summer camp in several ways,” explained Emily Lampe, former 4-H education program assistant in Lane County.

In addition to growing gardening skills, youth gained confidence and learned how to work well in a group. “Many of these youth found a new interest in gardening, creating new opportunities for them to find their passion, and ignite their spark,” she said. “The goal of 4-H is to find a youth’s spark – to identify what they are interested in — and help them develop that passion.”

As part of the program, young gardeners were able to take plants home to plant in their family garden plot, or in containers. The adults also benefited from the enthusiasm of the young gardeners, Lampe said.

“The curriculum taught the Master Gardener volunteers a few new concepts and facts, and allowed for hands-on engagement in a way they hadn’t experienced before,” she said.

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