Can’t beet it: Kids are digging the new YMCA gardens

Published 12:00 am Sunday, July 16, 2023

SALISBURY — One of the best chefs in the world is Mother Nature. She is responsible for all of the fruits, vegetables and grain that feed everyone on the planet. That food just can’t be made, it has to be grown and cared for. Ashley Honbarrier from Happy Roots, a local non-profit, is on a mission to teach kids the joys of gardening and naturally grown food.

Happy Roots has teamed up with the J.F. Hurley Family YMCA to build six new garden beds so kids can learn to garden and gain new skills. The YMCA does several after-school and summer programs, but this idea really stood out amongst the rest for them.

“Some of our kids don’t experience how to garden. We’re trying to expose them to different things while they are in our program. Gardening is one of those we haven’t really exposed them to in the past. It’s an opportunity to broaden their horizons and open their eyes to possibilities for the future,” Richard Reinholz, regional vice presidents of operations and healthy living at the YMCA, said.

On Friday morning, kids stopped by the YMCA to get a little dirty and do some gardening with Honbarrier. The six beds were ready and filled with dirt so that holes could be dug for the plants and seeds. Since it’s the summer, kids planted tomatoes, peppers, celery, eggplant and carrots. The plan is for it to be year-round garden with fall and winter crops on the menu pretty soon. 

Honbarrier and Happy Roots go around to schools and organizations to spread the word on the benefits of gardening. They had put in other garden beds at the YMCA a few years ago, but had wanted to expand on it for a while. By working with both schools and these summer programs, Honbarrier has started to make some new friends as well. 

“I can see them all here together and then they get to talk about how their school gardens doing. It’s just a way to bond in a healthy way. The YMCA is all about health, but nutrition and diet is a huge part of that,” Honbarrier said. 

In order for something like this to happen, it takes planning and plenty of effort. Volunteers were out the day before to set up the garden beds and the Blanche & Julian Robertson Family Foundation contributed funding. Honbarrier hopes more people get involved with the garden. She says if these plants turn out well the garden could get even bigger. Honbarrier will already be coming back on Monday to tend to it. As she gets the school gardens and the fall crops ready, she’s looking forward to the kids’ enthusiasm the most.

“They spend so much time on screens. Some kids say they’re allergic to dirt or just hate being outside, but they do end up loving it. It’s nice to get outside and breathe the fresh air. Some have never played in the dirt before they said today. It’s important to know what plants look like and where food comes from,” Honbarrier said.