Nurturing the Next Generation

Nurturing the Next Generation

By Lois Hole

Years ago, we used to give away tomato plants to young children. It was a way to show the little ones the joy of growing something of your very own—they would plant the tomato, water it each day and enjoy the juicy tomatoes at season’s end.

One early Sunday morning before the store opened, a man was banging frantically on the greenhouse door. We let him in and asked what was wrong. “I need a tomato plant right now, and it has to be exactly this big!” he said, indicating a height of about two feet.

It turns out that this man’s son had received one of those free tomato plants and had been impatiently caring for it for weeks, always asking when the fruits would be ready to eat. Well, the boy’s father had been trimming the lawn that morning and accidentally chopped his son’s tomato! No wonder he was in a panic. Fortunately, we had a plant just the right size and, as far as I know, the man planted it that morning and his son was none the wiser. Presumably, he enjoyed a nice harvest of tomatoes later that summer.

I suppose you could say that our giveaway was simply a way to sow the seeds of future customers, but there was more to it than that. To me, the primary purpose of handing out those tomato plants was to nurture a love of nature.

As a farm woman, I’ve always felt that it’s essential to give children the chance to enjoy the outdoors. Gardening, playing touch football, climbing trees or simply playing in the dirt is good exercise, teaches respect for our environment and, as it turns out, may even be vital to our health. A recent CBC report noted that allergies are on the rise, not because of impurities in food, but because children aren’t getting enough exposure to the outdoors that allows the body to develop immunities. Without time spent outside, kids become more vulnerable to allergens in the environment than they would normally be.

But as important as the outdoors are to a healthy body, I feel outside activity has an even more beneficial effect on our hearts and minds. That little boy with the tomato plant, and all the others like him, enjoyed the experience of nurturing a living thing. He helped it grow, ate its fruit and perhaps even saved and planted the seeds. In short, he joined the circle of life and, in doing so, learned that he has an important role to play in the natural world.

And that’s a great lesson to pass on to any child, of any age.