"Whoever doesn't want to play soccer comes to plant!"
An older pequeña takes a group of younger girls under her wing and shows them how and why to respect the land
July 26, 2016 - Mexico
It's a given the farm and its greenhouse provide an abundance of good, fresh, healthy food for the children of NPH Mexico, but the two also serve as invaluable teaching tools.
As important as it is to grow food to feed the bellies of the children, it's just as important to feed their minds.
“The farm is didactic,” says its director, Dr. Julio Morales. It is two pronged – it's production for the home and education for the children – and simply put, this promotes sustainability.
Out by the greenhouses – which produces 30 percent of all the food eaten at the home – a field has been carved into rows.
A group of girls comes out weekly. They each get a row of land to tend to.
They learn to till the soil, plant the vegetables and watch them grow. They gauge the climate, the sun, wind and rain. They monitor and tend to their crops as needed. They learn to read and live along with nature. They learn patience and diligence. They grow tomatoes, cucumber, cabbage, chard, radish, lettuce, carrots, and lemon grass.
Their teaching assistant Dona is a 22-year-old year-of-service student. At NPH, pequeños who graduate high school and go on to university must give back two years of support to the home they were raised in. This is called “year of service.”
Dona will be off to university to continue her studies, but in the meantime loves to help teach farming to the children.
“One – it is therapy for the children,” she says. “It's a form of escape. Whoever doesn't want to play football comes to plant! They learn so much from the earth, the animals, and things elementary.
“Two – it’s a form of learning. It’s an exploration of science that isn't found in school or books. Kids see and experience the process of life, the division between plants and animals.”
The land, seeds, water, animals and plants show children the importance of life, Dona says. It teaches them to respect life, themselves and others.
"For our children not to waste food, they must know the reason that it is good, why it is on their plate. You must teach them to eat all kinds of food, without forgetting that every meal is not just something you eat, but also part of the cuisine and culture of each country," she says.
"When they know about the preparation of food, they can enjoy what is on their plate and not play with their food."
By helping on the farm, the children enjoy the food. They know they have helped prepared it for the kitchen and table. They also learn a bit about preparing food in the kitchen, Dona says.
"It gives them confidence. It opens them to new possibilities and gives them independence. Children with knowledge have better opportunities in the future."