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Last week I got to speak at the Boerum Hill Association‘s Annual Greening Meeting, the theme of which was “Victory Gardens,” aka “food gardens,” which were planted during both World Wars. I forgot how much time and energy it takes to plan out a “talk,” especially one where I had to teach myself Keynote (the Mac’s Powerpoint-like application). Luckily, what I had to talk about was closely related to the small-space veggie/herb garden article I penned for Brooklyn Based, so, some of the work was already done. Phew!

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Working on this brought back so many good memories of both childhood in Pittsburgh, where we planted seeds and gardened every year, and the year or so when I worked at the New York Botanical Garden in Children’s Education and Public Programs. In regards to the first, when I was little, in early spring, I remember being SO excited to check on our seeds before school, impatiently waiting for them to germinate; I tried to grow corn every year to no avail; I remember hearing that if scientists could figure out how to make tomatoes square-shaped, packing/delivery would be so much easier! I quickly set my mind to work. Can you imagine?! I was probably 8-years-old, with a few years of elementary school under my tiny belt, attempting to grow square tomatoes–I really believed I could do it! Ah to be a kid…

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One of my favorite teaching-at-NYBG memories was the class we did on parts of the plants–we conclude the lesson by making a salad, consisting of all the parts (lettuce=leaf, celery=stem, carrot=root and sunflower seeds=seed). As you can probably guess, little kids aren’t ridiculously excited to learn they’ll be eating SALAD on a FIELD TRIP. Almost half of the kids (all from The Bronx) said they had never eaten salad before. Never. So, they were quite skeptical. But, guess what? As we assembled the salads and talked about the parts, the kids got into it and all but one ate the salad in its entirety, and I had kids running up to me, “Ohmygod, I’m gonna tell my mom to make this!” and “Ms. Kachmar, this is sooooo good!” Their teachers were astounded and thrilled–you really had to be there to feel the fulfillment of teaching such a lesson, to see the change that occurred in the kids over just a half hour. Goosebump-inducing and amazing.

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I meant to tell that story at the Greening Meeting, but forgot. 🙁 I did, however, get to talk about childhood and my green thumb parents. And I achieved my sort-of-silly goal: to get the biggest laugh by telling a story. I don’t know why, but I can’t teach/talk without trying to make it humorous and anecdotal. The above is one of my parents’ tomato bar graphs and charts for their prolific tomato container garden on the front porch (picture above the graph). When I got to this slide, the “biggest laugh” of the evening, I said something like, “So, when you have a mom who grew up on a tree/plant nursery and is a teacher, and a dad who likes math and worked with computers for 30 years, it means you make tomato harvest bar graphs and charts.” In 2005, they harvested 5,642 tomatoes!!! On our porch, in the city!

Suffice it to say, it was nice to be back in Brooklyn, talking about plants and telling stories.