For those baby boomers who grew up in the suburbs of big cities, the taste of the metal cans vegetables came in is probably still fresh in your mind, despite the many ways utilized to hide it. Face it, fresh vegetables, for many, were what was in the produce section of the nearest chain grocery store.
Today, nutrition is much more of an issue than in the 50’s and 60’s. It was reported that the major concern in the Northern Neck is not hunger, but eating foods that are nutritious. Dana Boyle of Garner’s Produce on King’s Highway has taken a stand towards educating the young people of this area about eating and processing fresh vegetables.
Working from a 100-acre farm, so many different types of vegetables are produced that Boyle laughed when asked about the varieties they had. There were too many. She commented that this is a year-round operation, from growing broccoli and greens in the fall to making repairs in the winter, and then starting all over again at the end of winter to prepare for the coming season keeps them busy.
To maintain their vegetable stands and wholesale businesses, twenty-six employees work on the farm. Boyle stated she could not operate the business without help, and spoke very highly of the work they do.
In the summer, in conjunction with the Richmond County Family YMCA 5210 Program to Fight Childhood Obesity, students come to the farm to participate and learn about fresh vegetables and how they grow. In this ten week program two age groups come out two times a week, with the age groups alternating weeks. One week, the ages 5-8 go and the next week the ages 9-12 go. The children bring their lunch which is usually supplemented by a watermelon or some healthy item from the farm. Boyle commented a big hit was water infused with fresh herbs.
The three dogs that live on the farm enjoy having the children around, particularly at lunch time. She laughed as she commented that the children had to be careful and watch to make sure the dogs did not eat their lunch. The children enjoy the dogs and consider them a part of the program.
Each week, a different topic is covered from collecting eggs from the thirty chickens they have, to cleaning onions. In season, she stated they will be working in the greenhouses learning about seeding and watering. It was noted that they enjoy watching what they had planted grow.
Trips to the field on a wagon are always a treat. When picking tomatoes, the children are allowed to keep what they picked. Boyle said some picked only a handful, while others picked enough to fill two grocery bags. Those with a lot are encouraged to share with those who have only a little, and to take them home and share the tomatoes with others living around them.
Ron Alston, Program Director for the Richmond County Family YMCA, stated he appreciates the fact that the Boyles offer this program to the YMCA at no charge. The children get outside and experience hands on work and learning. The 5210 Program teaches the children about healthy eating and physical activity through four daily concepts.
-5-Five servings of fruits and vegetables-It was reported that children who see their family members eating more fruits and vegetables are more apt to experiment and try different foods.
-2-Two hours or less of screen time-Children need to find other activities that are not as sedentary.
-1-One hour or more of physical activity each day-Physical activity relieves childhood stress, in addition to making them much stronger.
-0-Zero sugary drinks
Alston made the statement that the YMCA is very open to people and programs around the area that will, like Garner’s Produce, teach children about healthy living. Dana Boyle said she enjoys the children, and though it takes her away from things she could be doing, everyone who works on the farm pitches in to make it happen.
Scott Richards is a Northern Neck News correspondent.