Photo by JC Amberlyn.
The kids at the Boys and Girls Club of Kingman are soon going to learn that food doesn’t come from the grocery store, that sometimes you have to take your hands off the cell phone and get them dirty if you want to eat.
The club at 301 N. First St. is starting a small garden across the street on a vacant parcel of land owned by Marina Hunt and her daughter, Michelle Holden, who are also providing water for the project.
More than 200 kids are enrolled at the club, ranging from kindergarteners to eighth-graders, and while they won’t all be working on the garden, they’ll at least have the opportunity, said Bill Ward, chief executive officer of Boys & Girls Club of Kingman.
“They’re in the beginning stages of understanding the growth of the seeds,” he said Friday during an interview at the club.
Seeds will be planted the first week in April in eight 4-foot-by-14-foot garden beds.
Types of plants have yet to be decided, Ward said, but they’ll probably be tomatoes, lettuce and other fruits and vegetables that grow well in the desert.
Half of the garden yield will be donated to Cornerstone Mission.
“So it teaches them to be philanthropic and support the community,” Ward said.
Along with the land and water provision, the garden is made possible by an irrigation system donated by Star Nursery and installed by Vision Landscape, soil from TrueValue distribution center, plants from the nursery and gravel from Mineral Park Materials. A-1 Tractor is spreading the gravel.
“This is something we didn’t have in our budget,” said Scott Kern, board member of the Boys & Girls Club. “We thought it was a great opportunity, another avenue to teach kids something that’s useful for them as they get older. You know, agriculture in today’s world is a lost art.”
Not only does the garden educate kids on the growing cycle for plants and how to care for them, it gets them outside and active, Kern said.
Given gardening knowledge, they may create their own garden as they get older, or move on to the Dig It Community Garden that opened in 2015 on land provided by Praise Chapel Church.
Deana Nelson, vice chairwoman of the Boys & Girls Club board, said the kids may be more willing to eat vegetables that they’ve grown.
“If they’ll grow it, they’ll eat it,” she said. “All of a sudden, this is great, I’ve got to try this and see what it’s like.”
Ward said the garden is another step in enhancing the education of the boys and girls who come to the club on a regular basis. Mohave County’s Public Health Department sends planting instructors to talk to the kids, funded by a grant from Arizona Nutrition Network.
“The great thing is we have many businesses that stepped up and contributed, so there was no cost to the club,” the CEO said.
And it will give the kids something to do during the summer session.
Other programs available at the Boys & Girls Club of Kingman include The Learning Program, focusing on math and reading homework; the Arts, expanding minds and imagination and defining creative skills and interests; the Technology Center, which was upgraded last year with the donation of 12 new computers by American Woodmark; and Healthy Lifestyles, a physical fitness, health and wellness program.
Ward said educational programs such as those offered at the Boys & Girls Club are needed to augment the school curriculum, which has been minimized in many areas.
Data from Expect More Arizona shows that 67 percent of eighth-grade students can’t pass the Arizona merit math test, 62 percent of third-graders can’t pass the Arizona merit reading test and 25 percent of high school students won’t graduate in four years.
The mission of the Boys & Girls Club is to inspire and empower young people, especially those who need it the most, to realize their full potential as responsible, productive and caring adults.