At Cliff Hagan’s Boys and Girls Club (CHBGC) spring is in the air. What better way to begin the season than with the planting of seeds? Not just seeds that will produce food, but seeds of character and hands-on gardening instruction that will equip youth of the Owensboro Chapter with life lessons, while also providing vegetables for sale to the community.
In January, CHBGC hired Ryan Bibb, now Director of Operations, to facilitate a national program called “Positive Sprouts” through a grant opportunity provided by the Public Life Foundation of Owensboro and through partnership and instruction provided by Cecil Farms.
Positive Sprouts has received national recognition, so the CHBGC staff and Board of Directors are excited to host this program for their members and the community.
The program focuses on combating the growing obesity crisis among youth through education on eating nutritious foods and living healthy. Positive Sprouts also allows young people to build and maintain a community garden, and provides CHBGC members and their families access to fresh vegetables.
The Positive Sprouts curriculum includes:
- Age-appropriate activities with a focus on nutrition, education, and science exploration in the garden;
- A Gardening How-To Section, including instructions on how to plan, build, plant, maintain and sustain your garden;
- A Parent/Caregiver section, which offers simple home garden suggestions;
- Recipes – a guide of easy-to-make recipes that incorporate items grown in the garden.
Bibb says the Club likes that Positive Sprouts incorporates many lessons into one project. It’s multifaceted, providing both indoor and outdoor learning for the youth. Typically, Club programs last from one to two months, but Positive Sprouts runs from January through the summer months.
“We realize this can be intimidating to kids, but before we get them involved in digging or planting, they learn through classroom instruction the processes of the plants before they begin on their own. The key is that they will learn the confidence to take on tasks that challenge them, but that with patience and hard work they can find success,” says Bibb.
Positive Sprouts lessons are for 6-18 year-olds. However, CHBCG has made their focus 10 – 11 year-olds. They felt this age group encompassed responsible youth that still displayed the willingness to learn. Twelve interested youth and parents (to provide support) have agreed to accept the commitment of the project and provide the opportunity to have family involvement for a more long-term impact. Positive Sprouts includes team-building activities, which are a great advantage for the CHBGC as their “planters” are a diverse group of peers, but have now formed relationships with their co-participants.
Though most Cliff Hagan’s Boys and Girls Club activities can be found on campus, this program offers kids the unique opportunity to go off campus for their project. They are off campus on average of two days per week for a couple of hours with hands-on learning at Cecil Farms.
Kids can be eager to see results of their work. They often want to get straight to the outdoor project. But Bibb says, “We emphasize that a garden will not be grown over night. They learn patience through this and responsibility because they simply can’t plant it and leave it. They must take care of it. And this concept rolls into other areas of life.”
While farming, they have been taught the proper way to grow specific vegetables. They cannot simply put them in the ground but that they have to care for them, in order to help them grow and succeed. The program utilizes the expertise of Cecil Farms to provide everything to the kids for the gardening experience.
Hard work often has rewards for those willing to put in the time, and Positive Sprouts is no exception. The kids participating are provided a stipend, and have access to veggies to take home for their families to enjoy. The participants are also provided healthy recipes to promote healthier food choices.
This year they are seeding squash, cucumbers and zucchini for the garden. After the vegetables have been harvested, the youth will have the opportunity to sell vegetables at the Owensboro Regional Farmers’ Market, fostering yet another skill, entrepreneurship.
Cecil Farms has been a valuable partner to Positive Sprouts and the Club recognizes their efforts would not be possible if it weren’t for their participation and instruction.
Bibb says, “We hope our youth enjoy the process, increase confidence, and are open to what they are able to do and what they are WILLING to do.”
The Cliff Hagan Boys’ and Girls’ Club hopes the community will support this project by attending the Farmers’ Market, meeting the kids, and, if inclined, purchase vegetables.
Positive Sprouts may plant vegetable seeds, but it’s also growing these kids into confident and responsible youth, giving Owensboro an even brighter and healthier future.