1C Gardeners plant seeds of knowledge

By Jeff Hansel

Post-Bulletin, Rochester MN

Area school-aged children are getting a taste of diversity from gardeners. "Master gardeners," to be exact.

Who were the first residents of Minnesota? Native Americans, of course. Who followed? Mostly European immigrants.

Once they got to Minnesota, how did the new residents survive? Well, they balanced containers of water strung on wooden yokes across their shoulders.


And they grew their own food. They stored harvested food in "caves" dug into the soil banks, to keep it stable for later use.

In the early years of Minnesota history, most children did chores daily and ate foods grown on their own farmsteads.

Now, master gardeners tell local kids about those days to help them understand immigration and diversity — including diversity of people and diversity of foods. They also want to get kids interested in gardening, which can be a way to exercise without even realizing you’re doing it. Gardening, too, can provide healthy foods for a better diet.

"It’s a very important aspect of just being healthy, and it is good exercise to be outside working in the garden," said Linda Tweed, fifth and sixth-grade teacher at Victory Christian Academy. Tweed took a group of 20 students ranging from first through sixth grade to the History Center of Olmsted County last month.

A typical group of students comes from a second-grade classroom. The kids plant seeds, learn about Minnesota history and, if they’re lucky, get a tour of life during the 1800s from actors in period dress.

School kids visit April through June, said Joan Woxland, a spokeswoman for a program hosted by Master Gardeners of Olmsted County and the University of Minnesota.

During the rest of the summer, children from the Boys and Girls Club and teens from Summer of Service visit the center and learn about plants, gardening, eating healthy and diversity.

But they don’t just visit the "international garden" at the history center — they’re responsible for planting seeds, weeding and harvesting. "There are some kids that just latch on," Woxland said. The kids build "ethnic scarecrows" to represent various Minnesota immigrants.


Tweed said the recession should spur more gardening, and it’s good to get kids interested.

A couple of kids in her class already garden a little bit.

Sixth-grader Rachel Mundt of Utica said she liked learning about pots made of peat that are used to grow young plants. That allows them to be planted directly in the soil when they’re ready.

"We just start them in plastic," she said. "This was something new."

The students also learned about ways to garden without chemicals — the way some of the state’s first immigrants gardened.

Organizers are worried about the next school year, because schools might curtail field trips to save costs.

Want to fund a field trip or get your kids involved? Call the history center at 282-9447.

For more information, go to


The Olmsted County History Center

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