Here in Cherokee County, kids know better.
Thanks to the efforts of many gardeners and community leaders, local children are getting to the roots of what they consume, which is very basic knowledge for the elderly population, but an otherworldly phenomenon for much of my generation.
Last week, about 300 school district employees embarked on a tour visiting Cherokee farms that supply fresh produce to students. Last month, Free Home Elementary School students took their yearly agriculture field trip. The Cherokee County Farm Bureau has an ongoing commitment to promote knowledge of farming through educational outreach programs. Cherokee County School District implemented the farm to school program last year with a goal to purchase as much fresh produce from local farmers as possible.
To further bring awareness of knowing where one's food comes from, the local Board of Commissioners and the cities of Canton and Ball Ground proclaimed the last seven day Garden Week.
I understand the California kids' ignorance. I, like them, did not attend a school that took field trips to farms. An intro to produce class was not offered. The only thing I was taught in school regarding food was a ridiculously outdated pyramid chart.
That's because I was a product of a doomed generation who ate chemically enhanced food from a microwavable box with a long list of unpronounceable ingredients that took up half the package.
I advanced out of childhood and into my late teens with a desire to explore all types of foods, from carnitas to Creole and coq au vin. In my 20s, I began diving into more unknown culinary territory - tasting everything from ceviche and bone marrow to tripe and other edible offal.
Yet I still lacked a solid knowledge of where my produce was grown and what was in those organs I began eating - for better or worse, often worse. Television shows and my wife's appetite for food knowledge got me digging further. By 30, I had decided to start my own organic garden, pulling up weeds by hand and creating a garlic spray as a natural pesticide. I made the grave error of not testing my soil that first year and only reaped the fruits of about two or three of my many plants.
The following year, thanks to a soil test and advice from the good folks at the cooperative extension, I added a few hundred pounds of lime in the fall and waited impatiently for the spring to arrive. This year, I have more than I can handle.
I never would've imagined how much I like tending to my garden. It's hard work, but the payoff is well worth it. To bite into a perfectly ripe tomato picked directly from the vine is an experience everyone should have. To bring in a handful of okra and squash for my wife to fry is a joy.
I'm very glad to have taken such an interest in gardening and see a much greater curiosity from the youth of today, especially local children.
Aside from some urban kids who have a little catching up to do, there has been a noticeable push to address what appeared to be an exponential disconnect between what comes from the ground and what is served on the table. Knowledge of such is critical for children's health and will help them make better choices as they age. When they go to the grocery store, perhaps they'll push aside the 1,200-calorie boxed pepperoni pizza with 57 unknown ingredients and instead buy some flour, yeast and mozzarella, and put some basil and tomatoes from their garden atop the rolled dough.
So for National Garden Week, here's a nod to the soil players and the five Cherokee garden clubs, as well as Terry Ross of Ross Berry Farm and Apiary in Canton, who supplies honey to the school district. Thanks to gardeners from Rockin' S in Free Home, Buckeye Creek Farm in Hickory Flat and others who provide produce and grain to the schools.
Thanks to Georgia Organics and Erin Crooms, its Farm to School coordinator. Thanks to the local restaurateurs, who have also begun offering farm-to-table feasts, utilizing farmers markets and incorporating seasonal fruits and veggies.
But most importantly, thanks to the kids for sprouting a newly found interest in food.
Brandon Wilson is editor of the Cherokee Tribune.