Kids at Farm Lot 59 are going to be even more hands-on with the creation of a new children’s garden

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Kids at Farm Lot 59 are going to be even more hands-on with the creation of a new children’s garden

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Andy Vaughan, a garden educator at the non-profit Farm Lot 59, helps the kids in his class gather plants and soil to place inside of their makeshift cups. A new children's garden projected for completion by the end of this year will provide students new resources to learn.

Photos by Denny Cristales | Signal Tribune

Working with soil this past Tuesday and filling in their makeshift cups with dirt and seeds, children at Farm Lot 59 were quick to get their hands dirty, inspecting tendrils and receiving a hands-on lesson on the cultivation of produce. This time, they were learning about peas. These kids were participating in one of many class sessions offered at the farm taught by garden educator Andy Vaughan.

It will be later this year that these kids will get the opportunity to go from their makeshift cups to a field of their own when the creation of a new children’s garden is projected to be complete by this year, according to Sasha Kanno, founder of Farm Lot 59.

Opening in 2010, Kanno formed the non-profit and biodynamic farm with the mission to use its urban and rural connections to offer local green jobs, grow healthy and fresh food and combine its resources with the city and local partners.

Part of its mission is to also educate the youth on the importance of agriculture and food production.

“What we’ve noticed about hosting the kids is that we need a way to give them a hands-on experience,” Kanno said. “We are able to give them that safely… The kids love coming down here. A lot of them don’t have this kind of experience. It’s an open space in the city that is rare to find.”

A children’s garden at Farm Lot 59 has been in the works in order to establish a type of “living” education environment for the kids who partake in classes at the lot. Funding for the project requires a total of $15,000.

Money has come through by way of donations and campaigns. Last December, Long Beach Creamery hosted a fundraising kick-off for the farm that had 50 percent of its profits that day go toward the creation of the children’s garden.

Currently, Farm Lot 59 has funding for the structure. The next phase of its children’s garden project is to raise money for irrigation, planting and maintenance of the plot. The garden has already been outlined with rope next to the farm’s production crops.

“It’s going to take a little bit of work,” Kanno said. “It will be built by the end of this year, for sure. But we’re still waiting on a timeline.”

It will also be right next to the children’s education station, where the kids are already taking their classes.

Vaughan has been with Farm Lot 59 since the beginning of last summer. He teaches at the lot once a month with a class of up to 30 kids, and he also teaches at three different schools. The children’s program at the farm mostly tailors to both home and charter school kids about agriculture.

If somebody had told Vaughan years ago that he would be farming and teaching, he said he would probably have laughed in their face, but he is always amazed at how the kids quickly become invested in his lessons.

“Kids who normally don’t get to be in an environment like this, when they do get here, they just do amazing things,” Vaughan said. “Kids will eat what they grow. I’ve seen kids’ parents that will say ‘My kid came home and wanted a radish today. And I’m like ‘Oh. Well, you can thank me for that,'” he added jokingly.

Vaughan also recounted a story in which a “great student” of his came into the garden and always did and asked what he could do to assist in the class or on the farm. A former teacher of that same student arrived at the farm and was astonished at his behavior, as he would typically misbehave in any other circumstance.

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Children dissect plants and peas this past Tuesday during class at Farm Lot 59.

“When kids get into a natural environment, they turn into completely different folks,” Vaughan said, as he scooped peas into paper cups in preparation for his class later that morning. “I just think a natural environment brings out the best in everybody.”

Once the new children’s garden is built, the kids will be able to go in and plant their own “beds” and be more at liberty to get into the soil and dig, Vaughan said. He is “super excited” for the opportunity to teach in that environment.

“I can’t wait,” he said.

As 10am this past Tuesday rolled around, Vaughan was quickly surrounded by the 30 kids waiting to learn about agriculture and peas.

“What is one component necessary for plants to grow?” he asked his students.

A girl in the front bench quickly answered with the word “nutrigen.”

“Very good,” Vaughan responded. “And of course if we combine ‘nitrogen’ and ‘nutrition’ we can come up with a whole new word,” he added with a hint of humor and praise at the girl’s answer.

A lesson on peas wouldn’t seem like the most engaging of topics, but these are kids willing and able to learn, Vaughan said.

“I think just being grounded and not being in a closed environment looking at someone just talking all the time, but doing something hands-on and getting their hands dirty— you know, the tactile and the smells— and then we’re learning, as well,” Vaughan said. “It’s amazing.”

Farm Lot 59 is located at 2714 California Ave. In order to help Farm Lot 59 reach its goal of $15,000 for the children’s garden, or to register children for classes, visit farmlot59.org . Kanno noted that Apr. 23 will be the day of a brunch event that will help raise money for the garden.