Group issues garden challenge

Published 12:03 am Monday, September 10, 2012

NATCHEZ — A local group is issuing a challenge to local schools and churches to help the children of the Miss-Lou realize a deeper connection with the earth and the food they eat.

The Gaining Ground Sustainability Institute of Mississippi Natchez Chapter will kick off its “City Challenge for Our Children” campaign Saturday with indoor and outdoor workshops at Duncan Park, with Gaining Ground members demonstrating step-by-step how to build raised garden beds and how to plant a garden.

Gaining Ground Natchez’s Chairwoman Mitzi Callon said the goal of the campaign is to teach local children about the nutritional value of locally grown food in a fun, creative and sustainable way. Callon said that the group is hoping to get all local and churches involved by planting gardens in which the children can grow vegetables.

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“I believe children need to know where their food comes from, and they need fresh, local food,” Callon said. “When a vegetable is grown from a healthy soil and is able to grow to maturity locally and able to be eaten right off the vine, there is so much more minerals and nutrients that the child is going to receive.

“They also need to know where their food comes from, how to grow it and to interact with nature.”

The garden initiative will also work to create a greater unity in the community, and Callon said studies have shown that schools that built student gardens have lowered the number of incidences of bullying.

“Through reaching out through the churches and the schools, we can reach so many children, and by having the teachers and parents involved, we will be connecting with each other for an awesome cause.”

Gaining Ground has grant money available for the initiative, and Callon said the group could match in-kind expenses to a certain extent.

The group will also track those organizations that sign up for the gardening initiative, Callon said, and a monetary award will be given to the garden the Gaining Ground membership considers to be the best success.

“The important thing is for the children to have fun with it, and to taste what they have grown with their own hands and be proud of that,” she said.

The workshops at Duncan Park will be from 9 a.m. to noon.