AUBURN – First-grader Clover Pross, 7, and other children are spending April vacation learning where food comes from.

The weeklong Children’s Garden Program is held at Whiting Farm, where students learn about planting and growing vegetables.

As an introduction to where food comes from, the week opened up with students drawing pictures of what they eat.

Clover worked on her picture of a steak, a carrot and a parsnip.

“That’s what I had for dinner last night,” she said.

Her picture featured a cow because “steak is made from a cow.” She also drew a garden, where carrots and parsnips grow, a second cow and grass.

“Cows eat grass,” she explained.

The goal of the children’s camp, which starts during April vacation and continues throughout the summer, is to give children “a chance to see what happens in the gardens,” said Nancy Morris, master gardener from the University of Maine Extension Service for Sagadahoc and Androscoggin counties.

Children learn how there’s a tie to the plant world and what they eat, Morris said.

“They’ll see how things grow, learn about soil. This summer, they’ll help us with the garden laid out or the children.”

Zak Fecteau, 9, drew a pizza with ham and cheese. He had an arrow pointing to a pig.

“Ham is from a pig,” he said.

Riley Barter-Levine drew her favorite foods: soy chicken, bagel, peaches, pasta along with wheat plant, soy beans and a peach tree.

As students worked, master gardener Anna Low of the extension threw out some questions.

“What do chickens eat?” Low asked.

Grass and bugs, children answered.

One student drew a picture of “fake chicken” she recently ate.

“Where does ‘fake chicken’ come from?” Low asked.

The answer: Soy beans, which come from a bean bush.

Each day this week, students will plant seeds in the greenhouse.

“All those seeds will go into the garden,” said greenhouse Manager Melissa Collins. “It’s a significant amount that they plant.”

They’ll observe seeds becoming plants that bear food and will help harvest in late summer.

As they get dirty, they’ll learn about photosynthesis and the importance of sunlight, composting and soil.

Children will learn “if you don’t have good soil, your plants aren’t going to grow,” Collins said.

Students will get involved in soil tests, discussions about nutrients.

“They get pretty deep into it, but on a level they can understand,” she said. 

Sarah Levine enrolled her three daughters, Riley, Finley and Teagan, in the children’s garden camp.

“I want them to get back to earth,” she said. “I want them to get dirty, to know where their food comes from.”

Her reasons also include healthy eating; she wants her children to try more vegetables. Often kids don’t eat vegetables, she said, but they might try more if exposed to different types.

“I would love to have a farm myself, but I don’t have the land or the time,” Levine said.

Students went into a greenhouse where some dandelions were yellow, others had gone to seed.

Girls picked yellow flowers and made bouquets.

Boys picked gone-to-seed dandelions and blew on them so the seeds floated in the air.

There was a lesson there, Low said.

“We’re learning about seed dispersal,” she said.

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