May 16, 2012 at 10:55 a.m.

Local farmers' market movement fosters youth learning, doing

Local farmers' market movement fosters youth learning, doing
Local farmers' market movement fosters youth learning, doing

When Rebekah Peterson’s family moved into their house, they saw the one acre of property as a perfect opportunity for a garden. That garden now spans a huge portion of their backyard and has been going strong for the last 14 years. Rebekah grew up working on the patch of land, where her love for gardening was cultivated alongside the vegetables and berries. So when the mother of one of her friends gave her a flyer advertising the Youth Gardener Scholarship, Rebekah knew she had to apply. And, she did get chosen to receive the first ever farmers market youth scholarship.

Part of Rebekah’s interest in gardening is tied to her goal to become a speech pathologist, helping children who have speech impediments using animal and plant therapy. “I like to work with kids,” she says, “And I want to be able to help kids, not just babysit them.” When a cousin mentioned speech pathology, Rebekah knew she’d found a way to accomplish this. Now, she plans to eventually work with pre-school and kindergardeners with speech impediments to better prepare them for success in school. Using animals and plants can help these kids heal emotionally as well as physically.

(The only pet she has now is a small fish, Rebekah plans on having a dog and a few cats in the future.) “I also wanted to learn how to be more useful around the garden,” she said, “And it’s really cool to get advice from the Master Gardeners and to be able to sell at the market.” Here are just a couple of the exciting array of Scholarship benefits, to help Rebekah start a thriving garden: The Master Gardeners will act as Rebekah’s “mentors” as she starts up her garden. She says they’ve been out to her place to collect a soil sample, which will be sent to the University of Minnesota for analysis. They also gave her ideas of things to plant, including what sells well. (Part of the scholarship includes a table at the new Chisago City Farmers Market, where Rebekah will sell what she grows.) When she mentioned an interest in growing herbs, the Chisago City Farmers Market gave Rebekah a whole book on the subject, helping her look through it and pick out a few.

If you stop by her market table this summer, you might see herbs like chives, parsley, basil, lemon-thyme, and even bergamot, a unique herb used in Earl Grey tea. See FARMERS MARKET/2. Rebekah’s one wish is that she could have had more time to spend with the Master Gardeners. “They have so much knowledge!” she says. No gardener is successful without the proper tools--and this is where Mark Clay at Chisago Hardware steps in, donating some basics like gloves, a sprinkler, and a gardening hoe. A full arsenal of tools, (Rebekah says most of her own are broken or lost) means she’s ready for a thriving season. With the expert advice of the Master Gardeners and tools from Chisago Hardware, there’s only one ingredient left for successful gardening--the plants. Chisago Lakes High School’s Food Service Director Kathy Burrill and Greenhouse AG Sciences teacher Jeff Lindeman were more than happy to contribute. “Kathy was really nice,” Rebekah says of when they met to hand off the seedlings. “She was definitely intrigued by the idea of the scholarship.”

She says professionals like Burrill and Lindeman are interested in improving the gardening skills of the high-schoolers. They’ve been incredibly supportive of the scholarship, donating things like tomatoes, broccoli, pepper and lemon-thyme plants. When they realized there were no flowering plants in the greenhouse, the two donated the funds for Rebekah to buy some on her own. Rebekah also is working with Natura Farms, a local, all-volunteer farming operation dedicated to naturally grown, pesticide and herbicide-free fruits, berries and vegetables. Natura’s greenhouses are where Rebekah’s seedlings are being kept until it’s time to plant. Rebekah says she loves Natura Farms and looks forward to logging more volunteer hours there. Her family has always grown food without chemicals of any sort. “It’s so much better for you,” she says, “It helps you get back into nature and be healthy. So it’s neat to see a whole operation (Natura Farms) dedicated to organic gardening.”

When asked what her favorite part of the whole scholarship experience has been so far, Rebekah doesn’t hesitate to answer, “I’ve really liked meeting all these people who love to garden, especially Natura Farms and the organic side of things. I must say, I really enjoy all of them (the sponsors), they’re such cool programs.” She says she’d definitely tell her friends about the Youth Gardener Scholarship and encourage them to apply for it next year. (Scholarship application and eligibility guidelines can be found at the Chisago City Farmers Market website, www.chis agocityfarmers market- org.webs.com) “It’s been such a good learning process,” she says.

“I’m so thankful to be chosen.” The Chisago City Farmers Market will be accepting payments with EBT, credit and debit cards through a generous grant from the Minnesota Farmers Market Association. In conjunction with Blue Cross and Blue Shield of MN, the market will also offer those customers using EBT cards up to $5 in Market Bucks per market day. Visit the market's web site for more information: www.chis agocityfarmersmarket org.webs.com. Drop by the new Chisago City Farmer’s market this summer to meet Youth Gardener Scholarship winner Rebekah Peterson and maybe purchase a few things.

Submitted by, Chisago City Farmers Market


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