Alabama 4-H gardening program teaches youths to make healthy life choices

In Alabama and throughout the United States, there is a disconnect taking place between people and knowing where and how food is grown.This is especially true of youths, many of whom have never seen an animal raised or produce grown and harvested from the field or garden for human consumption. This lack of exposure to the field of agriculture will result in fewer young people choosing to pursue careers in agriculture, as well as potentially more conflict between agriculture and the public view of agricultural practices.In response,Alabama 4-H with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System developed a gardening program that provides youths with a variety of program options through which they gain firsthand gardening experience.The 4-H Grows program includes four-tiered gardening projects, which are designed to engage youths in gardening while recording their gardening experience in a journal.As a result of the program, 7,455 youths engaged in hands-on gardening experiences as they learned about plant propagation, plant growth and development while growing healthy foods for themselves, their families and communities.In addition, various stakeholders, including the Alabama Farmers Federation and Bonnie Plants, have become interested in providing financial support for the program and for the development of a 4-H Grows Gardening Center at the Alabama 4-H Science School.Alabama 4-H reported that 65% of the youths involved in the program had their first hands-on experience growing their own garden and 65% learned that agriculture serves an important role in helping to maintain personal well-being and societies. In addition, 65% learned that keeping a detailed journal of their gardening experience and observations is important for future reference and understanding the big picture.Lastly, 56% learned that taking care of their own garden from seed to harvest is a great way to learn responsibility.

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