Gardening is one of those things I’ve always WANTED to do, and appreciated the time others in my life put into it, but it wasn’t until we moved out into the country that I decided we would be down right sorry if we didn’t take advantage of everything around us. We’ve thrown ourselves into it, and while it hasn’t been perfect the benefits of gardening with family are worth their weight in gold.
My father has cultivated an amazing garden for the past few years at our family farm (which is a fascinating place in its own right). The kids and I thoroughly enjoyed helping him pick the bounty and weed those long rows last summer, as long as it wasn’t too late in the day, because that’s never enjoyable in the Southern heat. We decided that the kids should be part of the gardening experience from the very beginning with soil preparation to the end where the spent plants will be plowed under. They’ve also been a part of creating our very own family garden on our land so they can do the daily tending and reap the benefits of watching it grow.
I’m realizing more and more, however, that they’re learning much more that the actual skills of growing food, and so am I.
Obviously, they’re gaining knowledge about the science of planting and growing, but they’re learning so many other things at the same time without even realizing it. They’re learning family history from their grandfather and the impact that events like World War I had on their ancestors, when prices tanked on crops and no one could sell what they worked so hard to grow. By coming face to face with the beauty of God’s creation and learning to work through it’s trials and successes will prepare them for many other situations they will encounter in life.
Being useful and feeling a sense of purpose is one of the most fulfilling experiences in life. In learning to manage a garden and feeling the weight of its character-building demands, kids can see the direct result of their actions and also how sometimes things can still go wrong even with the most thorough of best-laid plans. When it comes time to pick the vegetables we’ve labored to produce they will be able to feel the sense of pride that comes with knowing one’s actions matter. Being able to feed others, especially those you love, gives us joy from knowing we have truly done something worthwhile. Finding your purpose in life and seeing the purpose of whatever you’re doing impacts everything.
Receiving encouragement motivates all of us to work harder and try again when we don’t get it right the first time. In gardening there are many things to learn, which means there will inevitably be a pile of mess-ups along the way. Having someone who’s seasoned in gardening (or whatever you’re learning) to validate your efforts and lend some constructive criticism along the way makes improvement even sweeter when you finally hit your mark. Encouragement leads to the forming of strong relationships and kindles a desire within a child to encourage others.
Having a sense of responsibility is hugely important. By caring for the garden my kids are learning that they must see projects all the way through, even after the excitement of newness wears off. They get to see the consequences, first hand, that occur if they neglect things they have charge over, and will hopefully see parallels in other areas of their lives where they must take responsibility.
I love that my kids have figured out that gardening isn’t ALL about hard work, and that having fun is a huge part of it. When they finish doing whatever gardening tasks they need to complete they love to sit down and make dirt castles in the sandy loam soil, using plant markers as flags. They laugh and enjoy themselves, and I hope this will stick with them to remind them that there’s fun to be had in almost any kind of work they’ll ever do. It’s all about perspective, and I want to encourage them to enjoy themselves whenever they can.
Not only do we get the benefit of feeling proud of the hard work we’ve done, and the results of that work, we also get to take pride in the work while we are doing it. It’s important to do your best on every job you do, no matter how small, so that you can always stand confidently behind your work. I get on to the kids if I see them half-way doing a task or taking careless shortcuts (I’m all for the shortcuts that give good results)all while explaining why it’s important to do our best. They have a lot to live up to in gardening on a farm that supported their great-grandfather and his many siblings, and by being able to dig in land that their ancestors fought to keep in times of economic downturn they will realize the importance of land and all that it brings.
I look forward to seeing their gardening skills increase and hope their love for the land will grow steadily over time. Land is one of the only things that lasts, and cultivating a love for things that truly have meaning will only enrich their their entire lives.
Are you gardening this Summer? Come tell us how it’s going on the Herd Management Facebook page! We love agriculture and all things about homesteading, so come share your experiences and tips with us.
My Homesteading Board on Pinterest has awesome pins of posts and articles, including ones about gardening with family. Check them out and follow me on there!