Northwoods Experience: Kids Grow Along with Garden at Bemidji Boys & Girls Club
A garden isn’t just for one age group. Children can also get their hands dirty and learn new things from it, like the kids at the Boys and Girls Club of the Bemidji Area have.
“Our garden actually started in 2005 as one raised bed,” said Shelby Weckwerth, grants director for the club. “Deb Dilley, who is our current garden manager, worked for [University of Minnesota] Extension at that time, she approached us to start a garden here. So we had what we called the “Pizza Garden” going, so it was one raised bed with just ingredients to make pizza with.”
Over the years, the Boys and Girls Club has built up their garden space by adding raised beds, a 1,500-square foot high tunnel to get kids outside earlier in the season, a tree corridor, and even hydroponic units for gardening year-round. One plot is set up right now to provide foods in a traditional manner.
“Three Sisters Garden is an Indigenous style of growing things, so we have the corn, the beans, and the squash, so the idea is that the corn will [allow] the beans to grow around it, so it’s kind of the stabilizer, and the squash kind of grow around it,” explained Talaya Kautz, Bemidji Boys and Girls Club assistant director. “Due to where we are in Minnesota, we kind of do this style to honor the culture around us.”
And for kids at the club, they’ve developed green thumbs by picking up techniques and learning about plants they may not have even heard of before.
“We have more than a few plants, we have tomatoes, we have ground cherries, we have gherkins, which are just like cucumbers,” said 2nd grader Oliver.
“Ground cherries, I like cherries, they’re yellow and it’s sort of like a little packaging and it looks like a little flower, but it’s not, it looks like a closed flower,” explained 5th grader Waleya. “And it feels like a little crumple-y, and then you open it, and then the cherry’s inside.”
Ultimately, having the garden space at the Boys and Girls Club has been a learning and growth experience for the youth who get involved.
“[It’s a] really great opportunity ’cause not only do the kids get to harvest it and eat it, but they also get to cook with it and bake with it, and so, all around, they just love doing it,” added Kautz.