Garden kits encourage at-home agriculture

Weekly videos paired with garden kits provide fun and education for families.

This garden kit includes instructions for how to sprout plants from vegetable scraps, and all the materials needed to do so. — Courtesy Kim D'Arcy

Island Grown at Home and the Martha’s Vineyard Family Center are working to provide fun and educational opportunities for families to garden with each other.

Typically, the Family Center, a division of Martha’s Vineyard Community Services, teams up with the Island Grown Initiative (IGI) to teach families how to plant and grow nutritious food using the Family Center’s garden. 

This program serves preadoptive and prenatal families, as well as those with kids up to age 8. These kits are intended to be parent-child activities, with a focus on the young child exploring.

This initiative normally begins in June, but since social distancing guidelines prevent folks from meeting in person, IGI preschool coordinator Ava Castro said, the two organizations decided to create an at-home experience.

Since the start of Island Grown at Home, a subdivision of IGI that educates folks on ways to grow and eat healthy food at home, Castro said she has been making weekly videos of gardening activities families can do at home, even if they don’t have their own garden. The videos include information on ways to start your own container garden with recycled plastic fruit containers, or sprout plants from old vegetable scraps. Last week’s video included directions for cutting the bottom of a piece of celery or lettuce and putting it in water to create a whole new plant. 

But the educational videos aren’t the only thing being offered to families. In tandem with the educational videos, the Family Center and Island Grown at Home are providing at-home garden kits that create a tangible learning experience to go along with each weekly activity.

For the vegetable sprouting segment, Family Center program director Kim D’arcy put together a garden kit with a head of lettuce, a head of celery, and little cups to sprout each vegetable in. D’arcy puts together all the garden kits, which families can register for (materials are limited). Email mvfamilycenter@gmail.com to reserve a garden kit.

“I think right now is a good time to start trying to grow your own food and avoid the grocery store. This is something that takes a lot of time, but is important for people to know about and educate themselves on,” Castro said.

D’arcy said the Family Center has been trying to find ways to work with families in a more hands-on way, while continuing to ensure the safety of the community. “We wanted to find something that was a little bit more tangible,” D’arcy said. “There has been a huge push to do the virtual piece, but I think folks are getting a little burned out from that.”

Since the beginning of the outbreak and before, the Family Center has provided resources to keep families engaged, and as June rolled around, D’arcy said, she wanted to find a way to continue the collaborative program with Castro.

“We always used to do an in-person program with Ava, but obviously that isn’t possible now. So instead, we offer families a garden kit to go along with each week, and they can come pick it up at no cost,” D’arcy said.

Each week, a theme guides the videos, and determines what will be included in the garden kit. 

“The purpose is to stress that parents are their child’s first and most important teacher, so providing them with the tools and resources to do that is so important,” D’arcy said.

The upcoming weekly segment will focus on bugs that can be found around the garden, and which insects are good for your at-home garden.

“This kit will include a book about bugs, a bug jar for collecting them, and a magnifying glass for a bug scavenger hunt,” D’arcy said. “The week after that, we will be getting succulents from Heather Gardens, and providing a little pot to grow the succulents in.”