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4-H and Farm Bureau: Calling all young gardeners

Children and teenagers in the greater Easthampton area who want to try out their green thumbs can get a little help this growing seasons from the Hampshire County chapters of 4-H and Farm Bureau.

The two groups are teaming up to help youths 8 to 18 in Easthampton, Southampton and Westhampton design and sow 10-by-10-foot vegetable or flower gardens at their homes this summer with guidance from gardening experts.

Organizers are hoping the young people will have plenty of crops to exhibit at local fairs in the summer.

Thomas M. Waskiewicz, a UMass Extension educator, said projects like these were more common decades ago, but a lot of family gardens had disappeared until recently.

“When I started with 4-H 31 years ago, we did a lot of these gardening projects. We worked with families and youth, from preparing the soil through harvesting and at the local fairs; the exhibit halls were packed with vegetables from them,” he said Thursday. “The exhibits had dwindled, but now we’re seeing an uptick.”

“It’s the whole back to the land movement,” he said. “People have been calling the 4-H office about information on backyard gardening. They’re concerned about where their food is coming from and they want their sons and daughters to have the experience of raising their own vegetables and flowers. They want them to know the basics.”

He said 4-H and Farm Bureau chose to pilot the gardening project in Easthampton, Southampton and Westhampton to try it out on a small scale. “If it really catches on and is successful, we’ll expand it around Hampshire County and the Pioneer Valley,” he said. Waskiewicz is hoping to register between 50 and 100 gardeners in these towns this year.

After paying the $10 registration fee, youths will get instructional materials, advice and a visit from the experienced 4-H and Farm Bureau growers during the growing season where they will advise them on everything from spacing and fertilizer to weeding and watering.

Waskiewicz said that in addition to teaching children the basics of gardening, the project will encourage young people’s interest in food production, nutrition, science and nature and will promote a good work ethic.

For more information or to register for the project, call the 4-H office at 545-0611. The deadline for registration is May 1.

Rebecca Everett can be reached at reverett@gazettenet.com.

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