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Health Matters

EARTHAPPLES

May 8th, 2017

EARTHAPPLES

BY PHIL BAKKER


I remember those childhood days on the potato farm. Those crisp autumn mornings in September, my three sisters and I dressed in our little blue coveralls digging through the black soil, the distinct earthy smell of the soil lingering on our little hands. For us, it was always an exciting discovery lifting those little golden gems out of the earth. Looking back I probably took those things for granted. I had an endless supply of dirt to play in - my mom definitely remembers that - and we had the privilege of eating delicious potatoes for supper every night.


My family moved to Canada from the Netherlands when I was five years old and started a potato farm near Stony Plain. I spent my entire childhood on the farm where we grew all sorts of potato varieties of different shapes and colours. Today I enjoy sharing my knowledge of potato varieties with people and showing them how easy and fun they are to grow - not to forget how delicious fresh home-grown potatoes taste.


It goes without saying that over the years society has shifted from rural farming communities to urban centres - myself included. Most of Canada’s population now resides in larger cities which explains the increased disconnect we have from our farms and our food sources. I often hear the stories from my teacher friends that some children don't know where milk or vegetables come from, other than “they come from a

store”. Who can blame them? Children these days have endless choices for entertainment. Often the preference goes to popular downloadable apps or computer games. Sadly, playing in the dirt or growing a garden is often not on that list. But it should be. Popular online games such as Farm Frenzy or FarmVille are fun to play but they do not teach how to grow your own vegetables at home. Yet potatoes are easy to plant and one of those versatile vegetables that can be grown practically anywhere.


Don’t have a garden? - No problem. They grow just as well in containers as in a garden or raised bed. Take any old (or new) container, drill a few holes in the bottom, fill it with soil, plant a seed potato, add some water, and that's it! You're on your way to eating fresh home grown potatoes in the fall.


Growing potatoes is a perfect way to get familiar with gardening. They are fun and rewarding to grow for children and adults alike. Ask any child who participates in a classroom growing program and it is no surprise that digging through the soil for potatoes always seems to be the most exciting part. Why is that? As one little boy described it to me once, “it is like digging for dinosaur bones”. I love this imagination and creativity! Secretly I admit, I get just as excited when I scratch the soil away with my fingertips and see the first potato of the season staring back at me. It’s always a rewarding feeling.


Growing potatoes is a great project for kids. Whether in a garden or in containers. It gives a child a unique opportunity to learn and engage with a very important and nutritious food source. Potatoes need water and nutrients and enough sunlight to give the best yields. Getting your child to take care of potatoes in a garden or a potato plant in a pot for a season teaches them responsibility and patience. It gives its rewards at the end instead of the instant gratification our society is now accustomed to.


This spring I challenge you and your family to roll up your sleeves and get your hands dirty (gloves are optional). The important thing is to get back to the roots, and discover the joys of gardening and sustainability. It is a gratifying feeling knowing where your food comes from. When you visit your local garden centres this spring. don’t forget to grab a few seed potatoes to grow. The exciting discovery of what you'll find in the fall is well worth the wait.

Phil Bakker is the founder of EarthApples. For more information, visit earthapples.com.

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