As parents, there are a seemingly endless number of skills and values that we want to instill in our children as they grow up.
Some of these include:
My children and I recently found a way to practice all of these at once by volunteering our time at Grow Calgary.
Grow Calgary is Canada’s largest urban community farm. It’s a non-profit organization that grows fresh produce for a variety of social agencies in Calgary that have food access programs.
The farm is located in Balzac and has been in operation for 11 years, now successfully producing food for nine years. The ultimate goal of the entirely volunteer-run organization is to ensure that all residents of Calgary, especially those who are vulnerable and living in poverty, have consistent access to healthy, local food.
In the past few years, the organization has also created an animal rescue branch and volunteers are currently caring for sheep, pigs, goats, ponies, a horse and ducks in addition to a collection of beehives.
Their expansive garden beds grow a little bit of everything that does well in our tricky climate – potatoes, tomatoes, onions, herbs, cabbage, lettuce, squash, beets, carrots and much more.
Having reported on Grow Calgary in the past, I thought signing myself and my kids up for a volunteer shift would be a great way to give back while getting our hands dirty (and meeting some adorable animals).
The jobs around the farm include seeding and transplanting trays, planting in garden beds, building new beds, watering and irrigation, weeding garden beds, feeding the animals, cleaning out the animals’ pens, building greenhouses, harvesting produce, and farm organization.
We took part in weeding the garden on the morning we volunteered, and we learned a lot about the operation – including the fact that 100 percent of the food grown at Grow Calgary is donated to those in need in Calgary, and 95 percent of the recipients are women and children.
It is an impressive operation that got my kids talking about those in need.
Our time at the farm inspired a number of questions, including “why can’t some people afford their own food?” “What do the animals need rescuing from?” and “can we go back and pick the food when it is ready to be given to the people who need it?”
Their minds were also working away on the agricultural side of things, and they asked questions like “why are weeds bad for other plants?” “How many plants can you grow in one bed?” and “why are some plants good to eat while others aren’t?” while we pulled weeds from a garden bed.
Kids are hands-on learners and being entrenched in the work with the dirt on their hands and the smell of mulch in the air got them invested in the activity and why they were doing it.
Their deep interest in our adventure got me thinking about the importance of teaching by doing.
We can tell our children that we should give our time and energy to those less fortunate, but unless you take action, the message can easily be lost on them. Volunteering together as a family is a great way to connect with each other, learn new skills, instill values and even introduce your child to something they are passionate about.
And who knows, you might learn a thing or two along the way!
For more information on Grow Calgary, visit growcalgary.ca.
Stacie is the editorial assistant of Calgary’s Child Magazine and mother of a delightful daughter and silly son. Her days are filled with playing in parks, creating crafts and keeping up with the chaos. She thoroughly enjoys supporting, connecting and informing parents through interesting stories like this one.
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