Kids working in gardenKids have always been welcome at Long Beach Organic’s community gardens, working alongside their families to weed, water, and harvest. But a new program is launching this month that will provide kids with gardening education combined with hands-on experience.

“We decided that if we wanted to really begin to shape our gardening culture at LBO, we needed to include kids as well,” said Dan Steinbacher, who will be leading the Meet your Garden kickoff at Zaferia Junction Community Garden at 3709 E. 10th St. from 10-11 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 14.

The free event will take place in the Learning Garden, which features kid-sized planter boxes designed to provide a testbed for children to learn how to plant, weed, and water.

“We are so excited to see what the program will grow into,” said Steinbacher, a longtime educator. “We want kids to feel ownership over this garden, to give them the experience of doing purposeful work, and ultimately, to reap the benefits of growing food.”

The Sept. 14 Meet Your Garden kickoff, open to children 8 and older, will begin with a tour of the Zaferia Garden, including the koi pond, orchard, garden beds and wood-fired pizza oven. The tour will be followed by weeding and preparing the Learning Garden beds for planting. Parents will need to check in and sign a visitor waiver.

Steinbacher said the program is part education and part get-your-hands-dirty. Kids who plant now will get to see the results of their work as the season progresses.

Additional workshops are planned for the second Saturday of the month for the next three months. Topics are:

  • October: All About Pumpkins: Learn about this iconic fall favorite.
  • November: How Does Your Garden Grow? How to see what your plants are telling you.
  • December: Seasons in the Sun: How seasons affect plants; focusing on seasonal differences in Southern California.

Steinbacher said children are filled with wonder when they see how things grow. Gardening also teaches children about patience and hard work, increases appreciation for how food is produced, and forges a connection with nature.

“When you slow down to plant-speed, all sorts of new details about your garden pop out at you. You notice the soil, the bugs, the shapes of the leaves. It’s tactile and connects them to a sense of natural cycles, and their curiosity is tangible,” he said.

“Understanding the effort it takes to grow food naturally makes young people more grateful for food. It also can change their relationship with food, spark lifelong passions, and result in delicious pizza.”

Steinbacher has only been gardening for a year. “It’s been very fun to be a part of the LBO community, and this is a project where I get to learn alongside the kids,” he said. “It’s also a great opportunity to make a lot of plant- and fruit-related jokes.”

Kids participating should bring gloves and a hat. Parents are welcome to join the class or tour the garden during the class hour. RSVP to reservations@longbeachorganic.org to reserve your spot. Walk-ins are welcome if space is available.

Kids’ Program Launched for Budding Gardeners