This week I want to share with you another inspiring story from one of our 2020 Gro More Good Grassroots Grant Winner. Their organization’s name, Love Makes Me Grow, should tip you off to the scope of their mission and the amazing work they are doing in their community and around the country. Below you will learn more about how they are responding to the needs of families during COVID-19. Their work is a great example of gardening programs for families.
Love Makes Me Grow, Kissimmee, Florida
Partnering with a local elementary school, Love Makes Me Grow is a nonprofit in central Florida focused on teaching families how to grow their own gardens to secure a sustainable food source and make healthy lifestyle choices. Participants in the program come from a variety of high needs circumstances including those who are challenged by food and housing insecurity. Families sign up to participate in a nine week program that includes a diverse offering of educational programs focused on nutrition and exercise, but also featuring topics such as careers in horticulture, affordable housing, financial literacy, and self advocacy. Each family is provided with the resources they need to begin home gardens (containers, soil, seeds, and plants) and they also contribute to the planting and maintenance of the school garden whose site they use for their weekend programs. During a normal year, they are able to offer four different sessions and reach 100 families annually.
As many community garden programs, this spring the educators at Love Makes Me Grow had to get creative about how to reach their audience. Fortunately, they were still able to provide the garden supplies to the families, but they had to find alternate ways to provide the educational support and in doing so they ended up expanding their audience far beyond their own community. The president of the organization, Nilisa Council, shares this about their spring efforts:
“We had to adjust with the times. Our website, Facebook and Instagram have been instrumental during these uncertain times. We have also collaborated with RadioMision 105.5 (transmitted in Spanish) on Facebook Live. They have provided a timeslot of 1:00 pm to 3:00 pm on Saturdays where we can educate and demonstrate our work. As a result, families throughout the U.S. have been in contact with us requesting seeds. Love Makes Me Grow has been able to assist over 800 families ranging from Florida to California. Along with the seeds, if requested, we do send a harvest guide, a planting calendar, and instructions on how to plant. We have also created several Power Points, which will be used during the Facebook Live show (depending on the week).
We have received incredibly positive feedback from our families. We have families that have planted a handful of seeds while they are at home with their children just to see what happens and others who have taken on bigger projects such as creating their own raised garden beds. Dads that have decided to build greenhouses, moms that have bucket gardens, and grandmas that have planted herb gardens. There is never a seed too small or too big. We are here to guide and educate.”
A key point of advice that the educators at Love Makes Me Grow pass along to new gardeners is for families to really think about how they plan to use their harvest. Instead of planting all their seeds at once, they recommend planting a few seeds at a time so that they are also able to harvest continuously and in the quantities needed by their families. They also promote the idea of saving seeds and other plant parts for their garden such as drying tomato seeds and planting potatoes that have started to root.
One last aspect of the Love Makes Me Grow program that I would like to emphasize is their focus on whole families. The program requires that adults and children participate together. In doing so, they are creating an opportunity for the family to spend valuable time together and also reaching multiple generations. The work they are doing will not only impact their community today, it will also help shape the future.