The Sherman Public Library and Grayson County office of the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension want children to know where food comes from. The two groups came together to help the Young Readers class at the library build a vegetable garden Saturday.
The garden is located behind the library and is viewable from the children’s section at the library’s temporary location. The vegetable garden is the first fall event for the Young Readers class, or elementary-school-aged children.
“It is important to know how to grow things on your own,” AgriLife 4-H Agent Tamra McGaughy said. “A lot of times families save money by putting in a simple bed — either a container garden or a raised bed — so that they can grow their own produce as well.”
Library Director MeLissa Eason said this project is interesting because children are not just reading about gardening, they get to experience it.
“Hopefully these will be positive memories they get to share with their families, and so it will be something that will affect healthy habits,” she said. “Those include getting out and doing things, eating fruits and vegetables, and living a healthy lifestyle.
“We are separated from our food. Part of reading is wanting to know how things work. This will help children connect more with how their meals are prepared and where food comes from.”
Eason said she would like the garden to carry this over to the library’s Travis Street and she would like to carry it over to other age groups as well.
“We are building the garden in raised beds so that when we move back, we are going to dig them up and move them,” Eason said.
Due to the time of year, children at the library planted tomatoes and carrots in the garden Saturday.
“Anytime that you want to start a garden, you should first make sure you contact the AgriLife Extension office or you do research on what are the proper things to plant at the time,” McGaughy said. “Right now, we are at the end of August so we are limited on the things that we can actually start growing before the first frost and before it gets really cold at night. It is also important to grow vegetables to your tastes. Today, the children voted and they did not like radishes so we planted carrots. It is important to know what your family will eat before you begin planting your vegetable garden.”
McGaughy said in the future it will be important for the Young Readers class to remember safety as they continue working in the library garden.
“Avoid mosquitoes and wear proper protection,” she said. “We always recommend wearing a long sleeved shirt and long pants when working in the garden. Not only does it protect you from the suns rays, it protects you from insect bites as well. Also, you can put on a safe spray. There are also plants that you can plant around your garden that will help distract insects from wanting to go into your garden.”
Children will weed, harvest, and water the Sherman Library garden as part of the weekly Younger Readers classes. Then, they will get to eat the vegetables that they grow.
“The children out here were so eager and they will be really excited about getting to eat the vegetables from their garden,” she said. “Sometimes when you go to the grocery story, children are not excited about eating their vegetables. This way it will be a lot fresher and a lot sweeter produce.”
About 12 children attended the planting day Saturday. Mercedes Chavez brought her son, David, 7, and daughter, America, 6, to Saturday’s event because she wants them to get excited about eating healthy.
“My son does not always like to eat vegetables,” she said. “I tell him, ‘try it, you might like it.’ This way, he can learn how they grow and he can learn more about where they come from.”
Chavez said that America’s favorite vegetables are lettuce and tomatoes.
“It is OK to eat out as a family every once in a while,” Chavez said. “But, eating healthy foods is very important. I want them to know how to make good decisions when it comes to the food they are eating.”
Chavez said that she really likes to bring her children to the library because the library offers a lot of books in English and Spanish.
“They have a big bilingual section,” she said. “When we come to these programs, we also get to practice our English and hear words that we do not always use at home. So not only are events like this for children, they help me as well.”