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Last summer, I started growing vegetables in a small garden bed on a 6’ x 6’ plot. I wanted my children to have first-hand experience about the programs that Helen Keller offers, such as the Enhanced Homestead Food Production program. This program provides poor households in Africa and Asia with education and resources to help them raise nutritious foods on their own property. The program gives these families access to nutritious foods, such as iron-rich leafy green vegetables and fruits rich in vitamin A, a vitamin that is crucial for the development of young children. These families are also able to sell their surplus produce at local markets to earn an additional income.

I engaged my children every step of the way. It was a great outdoor family activity that all of us could enjoy, and drove my children away from their computer games, allowing all of us to exercise and be outside in the fresh air and sunshine.

I had no previous gardening experience, so I just bought seeds for everything I could find. We grew pumpkins, cucumbers, zucchinis, green and yellow squash, cherry tomatoes, chilies, watermelons, carrots, parsley, mint, green beans, peas, basil, arugula, bitter melon, and lettuce.

My children were able to follow the entire process, watching the seeds grow into vegetables. They helped by watering the plants daily and harvesting what was grown. Before the garden, they had been extremely picky eaters, but once we started growing vegetables they developed a new appreciation for healthy food. We were harvesting so much food that I was able to share extra produce with my neighbors and colleagues. My children also shared vegetables with their daycare, proudly informing everyone that they had come from our garden.

I started learning new ways to make the vegetables last even longer. I pickled the cucumbers, beans, peas, and carrots, and kept the parsley and other herbs frozen so that I could use them in the future. This is my second year maintaining the garden, and I am continually learning new tips from my neighbors and colleagues on how to improve my small garden.

Gardening has been a great way to spend time together as a family. Even though summer is coming to an end, the memories we have made will certainly last a lifetime. If you have any space, indoors or outdoors, give it a try. The fruits and vegetables are delicious, and growing them is easier than you think.