After retiring from a career as a school teacher, Ann Alma has turned to local kids to see what they can teach her.
In her newly self-published book Kids Who Grow Their Own Food: Facts, Notes and Helpful Hints, Alma shares the experience of 10 Nelson and area children who tend their own gardens. The author spent the better part of a year shadowing these youngsters, asking them about their process and taking pictures at every stage of the growing cycle.
“Gardening is really important, especially for the younger generations who aren’t necessarily learning where their food comes from,” says Alma, who grew up on a market garden in Holland.
“This book shows how easy it is to plant a seed in the ground and grow some food of your own — be it pumpkins or tomatoes or all the ingredients for a special soup.”
The book is divided into three parts based on the seasons: spring, summer and fall. The different tasks for each season are described in detail, from nourishing the soil with compost before the seeds are planted, to harvesting and cooking their bounty and saving seeds from the plants for next year’s gardens.
The young gardeners are learning as they go, occasionally having to correct their mistakes. One girl plants her potatoes too close to her other crops and has to dig them out and move them to a different section of the garden.
At the end of each section they offer tips for the readers.
“The kids ranged in age from four to 14, and they were all very insightful about what they were doing,” Alma says. “It was really a joy to share their gardens.”
A couple of the kids are growing food as a way to connect with their heritage. One young girl is First Nations and some of the others are Doukhobors. Their cultural traditions make their way into the pages of the book, as do the favourite recipes of all the children.
Alma hopes the book, in addition to inspiring people to pick up a gardening spade, will teach them about the importance of heritage and heirloom variety crops that are facing extinction with the prevalence of industrial farming and genetically modified seeds.
“This is a book for everyone, whether you have children to share it with or just want to read it for yourself. There’s a lot of good information in there,” Alma says.
Ann Alma will be at the Kootenay Co-op Grocery Store promoting the book this Friday from noon to 2 p.m. There will be copies of the book for sale, as well as activities for kids, free snacks and a gift basket for a draw.
For more information see annalma.ca.