Kids learning to put food on the table

You hear it all the time from sustainability gurus: buy organic and buy local.

You hear it all the time from sustainability gurus: buy organic and buy local.

Kids who visit the Bothell Children’s Garden are starting to bring those lessons home. They’ve been learning to grow their own produce with help from the King County Master Gardeners association.

“If you’re someone who cares about organic, you can have some control over what you’re growing and putting in your mouth,” said master gardener Le Brandes, of Bothell.

Developing a green thumb has other benefits, like stretching your grocery dollars.

“With gas and food prices rising, it’s becoming more popular to do home gardening,” said master gardener Pat Pierce, of Bothell. “I think whenever there’s a downturn in the economy, people start to resort back to this sort of thing.”

The Children’s Garden started in 2001 as a joint project between the King County Master Gardeners association and Bothell’s United Methodist Church, where the plot is located. The goal since then has been to host after school programs for kids ages 3-12.

Visitors have included children from Westhill Elementary, the Northshore YMCA, the Korean Identification Society, and the United Methodist vacation bible school, as well as home schoolers and Brownie troops.

The general public is also welcome, and open houses will take place this summer on July 26, as well as Aug. 9 and 23.

Bothell resident April Carl visits the garden on a regular basis with her three daughters, Laura, Sarah, and Sophie.

“They can get their hands dirty and see how things grow,” April said. “I have a healthy-foods thing. I think it’s important for them to see that food doesn’t come processed in a box.”

Gardening also gives her kids an opportunity to get outdoors in an age when gaming consoles tend to keep youngsters holed up.

“We don’t have Nintendo,” April said. “I’d rather have them out here getting dirty and eating vegetables.”

Three Eagle Scout projects have helped the Children’s Garden flourish since its founding.

John Hosea brought ADA features to the plot by constructing a picnic table and raised planting bed in 2005.

Andy Briggs added a bridge and path that same year to make the garden further accessible to visitors with disabilities, and Jesse Miller built a shed that gives users a place to store their supplies.

The Children’s Garden has also received financial support from the National Gardeners Association, which supplied funding through its Youth Garden Grants Program.

“We’re just crazy grant-writing people,” Brandes said.

Other donations have come in the form of plants and recycled materials for structures like worm beds, benches, and work stations.

The Korean Identification Society left its own lasting legacy by providing Asian pear and persimmon trees.

Next to the Children’s Garden is a produce patch that supplies the Hopelink food banks with up to 1,000 pounds of vegetables a year. Eighty-year-old Warren Brown, known as “Farmer Brown,” tends to the plot on an almost daily basis.

Unlike Farmer Brown’s plot, the Children’s Garden isn’t about yield.

“The kids sometimes plant their seeds too deep, and they don’t grow, but that isn’t the point,” Pierce said. “We’re not here so much to grow lots of produce as we are to teach the kids.”

Theme gardening is common at the site, as the children raise pumpkins for Halloween, herbs for pizza, or vegetables for salsa.

One patch is specifically designed to grow ratatouille ingredients. A chef will show the kids how to make the stew later this year after the vegetables have matured.

“We want to help the kids make a connection between growing something and feeding your family,” Brandes said.

It’s all part of the learning process, which is designed to be fun at the Children’s Garden.

“We’ve had more fun here than people should be allowed,” Brandes said.

Snack time is built into the experience.

Four-year-old Sarah Carl had a mouth rimmed with purple juice as she worked in the garden on July 10.

“I like eating the raspberries and strawberries,” she said.

• Call (425) 486-7132 for additional information about the Children’s Garden.