Working under the notion that a garden in every school can combat some of the serious health problems facing children, the nation's most influential garden policy experts will descend on Des Moines next month for the first-ever summit to discuss the social, environmental and health benefits of gardening.
Chief on the experts' agenda is the establishment of a set of Principles for Garden Policy, which they hope will help people and public officials see gardening as a means to create a better lifestyle for themselves and their communities.
"Gardening is such a powerful tool, because it offers people so many benefits," says summit organizer Neil D. Hamilton, director of Drake University's Agricultural Law Center and a member of the board of the National Gardening Association. "Everyone is equal when gardening. It provides people with common way of communication and can be an entry point to many different civic discussions."
Other topics of interest during the Sept. 7-8 conference include a presentation from the Center for Disease Control on "Gardening's Contribution to America's Wellness," and discussions on "Gardens, Prisons and Healing People," "Urban Gardens: Beautifying Communities, Feeding People and Educating the Public" and "The Future of Gardening in American Society." There will also be a session on "School Gardens and Educating Children."
"Increasing plant base-education in America's schools could have a profound effect on the health of the nation. By learning about plants and food production, students will achieve a greater understanding of the nutritional value of fresh produce. School gardens may also boost students' consumption of vegetables and promote healthier eating. By taking care of a garden, they will learn to enjoy eating the fruits of their labor," says Hamilton.
According to Hamilton, plant-based education, offers students more than just a healthy lifestyle. Teachers can easily incorporate the gardens into math, science and social studies lessons. "Gardening offers active and engaging connections to academics. You can easily see a teacher planning a social studies lesson on the history of food and where it originally came from. Gardening also gives kids a sense of pride in their accomplishments and provides them with a way to improve and give back to the community," he says.
The 2006 National Summit on Garden Policy is sponsored by the Drake University Agricultural Law Center and State and Local Food Policy Project in cooperation with the National Gardening Association. Bruce Butterfield, director of research at the NGA, will be presenting results of a new attitudinal survey that looks at "What Gardeners Think." The Drake Agricultural Law Center will publish the conference proceedings as a special report in 2007.
Other key presenters include: Cathrine Sneed, founder of The Garden Project; Lynn Fredericks, founder of FamilyCook Productions and chair of Les Dames d'Escoffier International's Green Tables Initiative; and Will Rapp, founder and president of Gardner's Supply Co.
The schedule for the conference, titled “Gardens For All: People, Plants and Policy," is posted at http://www.nationalgardenmonth.org/index.php?page=garden_policy.
Those attending the conference will have the opportunity to tour a number of interesting garden facilities in the greater Des Moines areas, including area community gardens; the Des Moines Botanical Center; Brenton Arboretum near Dallas Center; the Neal Smith Prairie Learning Center near Prairie City; Salisbury House and Gardens; Terrace Hill; the Homestead; Living History Farms; and Better Homes and Gardens Test Garden.
The conference is co-sponsored by Seed Savers Exchange, American Community Garden Association, American Public Garden Association, Les Dames d'Escoffier, International, the Center for Ecoliteracy Slow Food USA, the U.S. Botanic Garden, Project for Public Spaces, Des Moines Parks and Recreation, Des Moines Founders Garden Club, the Gardens Writers Association, the National Catholic Rural Life Conference, the Iowa Food Policy Council and the Iowa Network for Community Agriculture.
“Gardens For All: People, Plants and Policy” is made possible by financial support from the Lillian Goldman Charitable Trust, with additional support from Organic Valley Family of Farms, Gardener’s Supply Inc. and Drake University.
The conference is a National Gardening Association Project Grow initiative, supported in part by Hilton Garden Inns, Subaru, Black and Decker, Ames True Value, Home Depot and the Scott’s Company.