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What I’ve Learned Along the Way

Brought to you by Lowe's Creative Ideas

A young teen discovers valuable lessons in the garden while growing food for the hungry.

Katie and basket of peppers

By Katie Stagliano

“Gardening is learning, learning, learning. That’s the fun of it. You’re always learning.” --Helen Mirren

As I have just finished five midterm exams, I can honestly say I don’t think I’m ever going to need to know half of the things that were covered on my tests. While knowing that the Akkadians had the first empire in the world is a fun factoid, I doubt that I’ll remember that in 30 years.

That got me to thinking: What are the lessons I’ll carry with me into the future? I’ve learned to be caring and nurturing. I’ve learned that not everything is in my control, but I must be resilient. I’ve learned that some things cannot be neglected, and that being responsible is of the utmost importance.

How did I learn all of this? By getting my hands dirty in the garden. I’ve learned some of life’s most important lessons in the garden.

Katie harvesting near scarecrow

Caring and Nurturing
While I’ve learned lessons about political and religious conflicts in history class, my garden has taught me something different: how to nurture the things I care about.

A garden requires a great deal of nurturing. From the moment a young seedling is nestled in the earth, the tiny, fragile plant requires great care. The time and effort put into taking care of a garden is rewarded with a bountiful harvest, much like life. Caring and nurturing those you love is rewarded with a bountiful harvest. The things we love, the relationships we cherish, the gardens we grow -- all of these things flourish with love.

 

baskets of produce

Resiliency
Unlike school, where I can study before an exam, I don’t have control of the outcome when it comes to the garden. Everything can be planned and executed to ensure a bountiful harvest -- checking the pH of your soil, amending the rows, watering consistently, fertilizing -- but there’s nothing you can do when you get a record summer rainfall of 28 inches that all but wipes out the tomato harvest.

In life, things are bound to go wrong. As much as we’d like to control everything, this will never happen. But if deer wipe out your entire row of beans, it doesn’t mean you should stop gardening. As hundreds of families now depend on Katie’s Krops for healthy, fresh produce, being resilient has become a necessity.

 

Katie in food pantry

Responsibility
It takes responsibility to ensure a harvest is bountiful and delivered in a timely manner. Just like in life, you can’t neglect your obligations, no matter how tempting it may be.

There are some days when I don’t want to get up early to water the football field-size flagship garden at Pinewood. And there are other times when I don’t want to go outside in the scorching summer heat to weed and harvest the vegetables. But just like many good things in life, you have to work hard for your bountiful harvest.

Even after the harvest, the responsibility doesn’t end. We have to transport our vegetables to the food pantries, the homes of families in need, or to the Katie’s Krops dinners. We harvest on the day of the delivery to ensure that our vegetables are at their nutritional peak.

Sometimes stepping outside the classroom and stepping into Nature’s classroom can teach you important life lessons. Yes, you’ll learn about science and agriculture, but you’ll also learn how to be nurturing, resilient, and responsible, how to be caring, and how to truly appreciate the gifts that the Earth provides. And maybe those are the lessons we all need a little more of.