May 23, 2024 - 6:59pm -- noggle.17@osu.edu

Youth is the heart of Paulding County! When we talk about opportunities to develop skills that last a lifetime, we are talking about those career development skills and life skills like time management, and hard work. Paulding County Extension is offering its fourth season of a youth gardening program starting on June 4, 2024, and running through August 6, 2024.

“This year, we have expanded the program to offer meal and snack possibilities from produce grown in the garden.”, shared Emma Horstman, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences.

We are inviting all youth ages 8-12 to join the Paulding County Extension Office in their children’s gardening and cooking summer program. This program is geared towards 8-12-year-old youth interested in gardening, cooking, and healthy eating. This goal is to attend all sessions and enrollment is limited to 20 youth.​ Registration is required by going to the link http://go.osu.edu/24GreenThumbs

The program aims to develop life and career skills while learning educational concepts in gardening and cooking. Youth will meet every Tuesday morning from 9:30 – 10:30 AM starting June 4 in the Youth Leadership Building, 503 Fairground Drive, Paulding, OH 45879. ​

A few national research studies have addressed how gardening experience leads to future interest in gardening. College students majoring in horticulture have identified childhood experience with gardening as a strong influence in their decision to pursue this area of study (Citation Bradley, Kohlleppel, Waliczek, & Zajicek, 2000). Citation Lohr and Pearson-Mims (2005) associated growing up near natural elements such as flower beds, visiting parks, taking environmental classes, and gardening during childhood with more positive attitudes toward trees and a greater likelihood of participating in a class or program about gardening as an adult; the strongest influence came from active gardening activities. Citation Alexander et al. (1995), Citation Canaris (1995), Citation Fusco (2001) and Citation Pothukuchi (2004) documented children's enthusiasm for gardening, and a range of gardening skills learned, as a result of active, hands-on work with the planting and maintenance of school and community gardens. In addition to planting and tending to all aspects of the garden, the children also participated in other activities, including decision-making, recruiting other children, working as a team with other children and adults, engaging parents and visitors, fundraising, and outreach.

“I truly believe knowing where your food comes from and how it is grown is important,” shares Sarah Noggle, “So many of our youth, even in rural Paulding County, have never grown more than a flower for Mother’s Day. They have never seen the fruits of their hard work and labor by growing food they can prepare and eat. We have expanded the garden size in 2024 to offer more of a variety of produce.”   

We are partnering weekly with our Master Gardener Volunteers to serve as mentors for the gardening section of the class. The classes will feature guest speakers, covering the topics of basic gardening, growing techniques, pollinators, entomology, thrifty gardening, food safety, healthful eating, healthy garden snacks, harvesting and preserving your garden produce, and a summer brunch showcase. It is our goal to keep youth engaged all summer long, we hope to get questions with partnerships from the community for the youth about what they are learning. Parents, grandparents, or other adult mentors are encouraged to participate with their children.

From a research standpoint, youth will have the opportunity to participate in a research project through Ohio’s Trial Vegetable Gardens. The Home Garden Vegetable Trials are a citizen science project for gardeners in the state of Ohio. Each year, five cool-season and five warm-season vegetables are tested. There are two varieties of each vegetable in a trial. Gardeners are allowed to select the number of trials in which they would like to participate. They are asked to grow a 10-foot row of each variety or the equivalent number of plants. There are no mandates as to how the vegetables are grown. Gardeners track the progress of their vegetables and report the results at the end of the growing season. The results are then posted in order to help other gardeners in the selection of vegetables that they would like to grow in the coming years.

For additional information on the youth gardening and cooking program, Family and Consumer Sciences programs, 4-H Youth Development, or Master Gardener Volunteer program, contact Sarah Noggle, Paulding County Extension Educator, Ag, and Natural Resources, at noggle.17@osu.edu,  Emma Horstman, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, at horstman.124@osu.edu or Sara Zimmerman, Program Coordinator, 4-H Youth Development, at zimmerman.948@osu.edu.  Individuals can also walk into the OSU Extension Office at 503 Fairground Drive, Paulding, or call 419-399-8225 to register.