Nine Similarities Between Family Gardening and the National Pastime.
Our local baseball team uses our school lot for game parking. So, on early evenings before a home game, fans toting lawn chairs stride determinedly down our long driveway toward our community field of dreams. At the same time, parents and kids arriving at school to garden together step out of their cars with pies, loaves of bread, casseroles and bowls of precut watermelon and head for the picnic tables under the trees. I have been planning all afternoon, making lists of tasks, gathering seeds and tools and creating a strategy for this weekly session we call Family Gardening.
This juxtaposition of Family Gardening and the national pastime led me to wonder whether evening gardening sessions such as ours with food, friends and family could become as popular as baseball. Surprisingly, the two seemingly different activities meet many of the same human needs. And since not everyone plays or watches baseball every summer evening, perhaps Family Gardening could grow to be as popular as baseball.
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Here are nine way in which Family Gardening and baseball are similar:
1) Both activities provide a reason to gather outside on summer evenings. Here on Cape Cod, as in many communities, these evenings are the glory of summer. The sky is bright but not too bright. The temperature is warm, but not too warm, and the still air of afternoon erupts into pleasant breezes that fly across the recess field and through our gardens.
2) Both Family Gardening and baseball bring adults and children together.
3) Playing baseball and working in a garden are both wholesome occupations for adolescents. Sixth and seventh graders, who are all experienced gardeners, have a special role leading both younger children and adults during our Family Gardening sessions. They know where to bring the compostable weeds, how to feed the worms, how to transplant basil and lettuce and where to find a garden cart. Overall, they are able to keep the work of their team flowing well so that I can work with another team that needs guidance.
4) Family gardeners and baseball players work physically as teams to build skills, strength, stamina and a sense of how to work amiably with others to complete a job.
5) Both activities are a good fit for many organizations. Think about how many types of organizations have baseball teams: grade schools, high schools, colleges, workplaces, churches, neighborhoods, towns, cities, youth leagues sponsored by local businesses.These organizations are also perfect sponsors for Family Gardening programs. Family Gardening at our school provides food for lunch. Family Gardening at a workplace could grow food for the cafeteria. Many sponsors of Family Gardening programs could send food home with families for their own use. Some organizations might donate food to charity.
6) The organization of volunteers, coaches and players in baseball provides an effective model for Family Gardening programs. Our Family Gardening program is indebted to volunteer parents who contact families in their children’s classes to remind them of their session and organize the potluck dinners. I am especially grateful for the dedicated team that built our hoop house and devotes time each spring to repair and maintenance in the hoop house and garden. They are like the volunteers who maintain community baseball diamonds. As the person who comes up with the weekly strategy for our work, I am like the coach. I suspect I am like baseball coaches regarding successes and failures. When we have a crop failure I blame myself and when the harvest is bountiful I feel grateful for a wonderful team. The gardeners from age 3 to 73 who show up each week all summer are the players. I think, whether the activity is baseball or evening gardening, players appreciate coming to a well-organized event where they do their part to help their team
7) Baseball games and Family Gardening each take about two and a half hours. Baseball teams have innings, hot dogs, and the national anthem. Family gardening has an inning of work by the big kids, another inning of work by younger kids with their parents, a potluck dinner and a closing song
8) After the event, taking time to reflect on the baseball game or the gardening session is natural. I suspect fans walking back to their cars chat about home runs, amazing plays and, sometimes, disappointments. After our Family Gardening sessions, the baseball fans walk by our cozy circle as they return to their cars. We have gathered to reflect on our evening. I always ask each person to tell us something about what they have observed, enjoyed or accomplished. Children laugh while explaining that they enjoyed getting soaked while watering. A new adult in our community mentions that she accomplished planting seeds for the first time in her life. An eight year old tells us how much she enjoyed working with pre-schoolers. We close by singing together as the shadows lengthen.
9) Baseball and Family Gardening both provide similar seasonal rituals–a sense of promise in the spring, a summer of devoted work and an autumn to rejoice a winning season or a bountiful harvest or a plan to try again the following year after a losing season or crop failure.
Do you think Family Gardening could become as big as baseball? Does your workplace, church, synagogue, town or park have room for a garden or a hoop house? Do you have a friend or colleague who is an experienced home gardener and might be willing to serve as a coach? Do you have friends or co-workers who have never planted a seed and who want to learn how to garden? If so, make plans, contact others with enthusiasm and start a Family Gardening program!
Photo credit top image: Ted Curtin
A peek at our family gardening program at https://childrengrowing.com/2014/07/12/leek-nibblers-and-compost-jumpers/