Girls Inc. students learn valuable lessons through modern gardening

Photo by Marlys Mason

Kim Johnson is on a mission of teaching healthy habits to the community. As a dance instructor at Johnson’s Dance Studio and a certified health coach with the Dr. Sears Wellness Institute, Johnson wants to “bring the garden to you.”

One of the products Johnson enjoys sharing with the community is Juice Plus’ Tower Garden, a space-saving system that uses aeroponics — only water and nutrients — to grow crops without soil. The vertical garden system can grow a variety of vegetables, herbs, fruits and flowers while taking up less than three square feet of space.

Through grants from Owensboro Dance Theatre, Johnson has put three tower gardens in the community — at Whitesville Elementary School, Country Heights Elementary School and Girls Inc.

“The Tower Garden is an amazing way to teach children about gardening and the importance of it,” Johnson said. “It allows children the opportunity to learn how to grow food and then eat what they have created.”

Each month, Johnson visits Girls Inc. to work with the girls who have signed up for the activity. Last month, the girls harvested their first crop which included kale, celery, bibb and romaine lettuce and parsley.

Johnson and the girls discuss the differences between their produce and what is bought at a store while they tend to the Tower Garden, and the girls are able to try everything grown in the crop.

Sydney, 13, said that she really liked the kale they had grown because it was darker green and more flavorful.

When the girls discussed the celery, they noticed it did not grow in a bunch like they buy at the store.

“It was really skinny,” Gabby, 11, said. “It tasted the same though.”

Johnson said that in each location where tower gardens are already implemented, kids have been inspired to try new and healthy foods because they have been part of growing the produce.

The girls planted arugula seeds in the tower garden and expect to reap the harvest in the next four to six weeks. Next they will add other vegetables, but those will be seedlings, so they grow faster.

The tower garden is located inside Girls Inc. and because there are grow lights, which are set to timers, sunlight is not necessary. The girls are responsible for taking care of it daily, which includes checking the water level as well as the pH balance of the water, which they test.

“There is a core group of girls who do this, and they also check the plants and peel back the dead leaves, if needed,” Johnson said.

While the plants are growing, Johnson teaches the girls about healthy eating and integrating the healthy foods into diets.

“The tower garden incorporates math and science learned in the classroom and allows children to put their skills and knowledge into a real-life example,” Johnson said.

To learn more about tower gardens, click here,  or to inquire about opportunities for your organization, contact Kim Johnson via email.

By Marlys Mason, Owensboro Times