Central Florida's Agri-Leader
The school year is winding down and the summer months are just around the corner. It’s a good time to start thinking about summer activities.
In addition to those swimming lessons, art projects, and outdoor adventures, consider enriching your children’s lives by learning about more agriculture. Unlike swimming, learning about agriculture is never too early to begin.
Young ones can plant seeds and watch them grow, while older ones can tend to larger gardens. Pick-your-own farms and roadside stands can also be a learning experience as the children can see where plants are planted and learn how they grow. For those nearest you, check: http://www.pickyourown.org/FLeastcentral.htm.
Even a trip to the grocery store can be an agricultural learning experience for children as you can educate them about what is in season, what the various produce is, and what to look for when choosing the freshest.
Another task you can easily involve children in is to take some of the vegetables and fruits purchased, and offer your children a cooking lesson. Cooking lessons are offered at certain Publix stores, via their Aprons Cooking School, while kids’ recipes can be found on sites like: http://kidshealth.org/kid/recipes/ and http://allrecipes.com/recipes/everyday-cooking/family-favorites/
When it comes to reading materials, they can easily be geared towards learning about agriculture; the Heartland Library Cooperative has several libraries in the area offering many summer activities and with a librarian on hand to provide reading suggestions. Another source is to find reading materials is through the list compiled by the National Agricultural Library, U.S. Department of Agriculture at: http://lomavistafarm.org/images/stories/KidsAgBooks.pdf.
For those seeking a day of excitement, let’s not forget Legoland’s Fresh From Florida’s Greenhouse offering interactive experiences, the C’Mon! Children’s Museum of Naples features an interactive Produce Market and Farm, while the Florida Agricultural Museum takes visitors back in time for a visit to Florida’s rural past.
Certain summer camps offer agricultural experiences as part of their curriculum. Find out about local camps at: http://www.summercampsus.com/florida-summer-camps/.
Joining groups, such as a 4-H club, is also a worthwhile consideration. Highlands County offers its own groups that participate in many activities. Take for example some of the agricultural activities undertaken by the Sunny Hop 4-H Club, led by Erin Sowards, who has two children of her own. “Two years ago we planted a pomegranate tree field and our club members have been rearing these trees on a monthly basis,” said Sowards. Their pomegranate project, assisted by UF, is posted on: www.4hpomegranate.com.
Most of the children in her club ads are also involved in the Youth Citrus Program through Highlands County Extension, where you can purchase a tree for a minimal fee in April and raise it until February, then show and sell at the Highlands County Fair. (Registration is now closed for 2013.)
Another busy 4-H club in Lake Placid, the Lake Placid Clovers, is led by Paula Sapp, who also has two young children of her own. Sapp’s brother offered the group a section of land which they hand-plowed, then planted and harvested squash, carrots, green beans, corn and radishes. Some of the veggies were donated to local charities. The group is also involved in other projects, such as those with caladium and beef and pork.
Projects like these teach children more than just gardening and farming, “They learn many life skills,” said Sapp, who explained that the children also learn record keeping, budgets, profit and loss, fertilization methods and water conservation.
“There is also a deeper sense of accomplishment in knowing that they started all of this with a little dirt and some seeds, and, of course, a little care, too.”
4-H also has its own summer camps. Find out more about 4-H at: http://highlands.ifas.ufl.edu/4-H/about4-h.shtml.
One thing’s for sure. In Florida, you don’t have to look hard or too far to get involved at any age, or at any time with agriculture.