In 2012 a conversation between two friends sparked the idea of using school garden education to empower children to make healthy food choices and actually want to eat garden produce. Research shows that when children have a hand in growing, harvesting and preparing healthy foods they are much more likely to chose to consume that food. We know students need to fuel their bodies with good food to power their brains to learn. For this reason the group of passionate parents that started our organization named it GROW Your Brain. Over the years that name has evolved. When we gained official nonprofit status in 2014 our legal name was GROW La Crosse. As we have become a regional expert in providing high-quality hands-on garden-based learning we now go by GROW.
Our first school garden was built in 2012. Today we serve over 3000 youth each year through our school garden education, greenhouse field trips and farm experiences.
School Garden Education
Through school gardens, GROW creates experiences for youth that promote healthy food choices. We build and maintain gardens to help take the work off teachers. We offer hands-on education sessions, science lessons connecting to curriculum, taste tests, mindfulness exercises and help get fresh food into the cafeteria. Each of the schools that partners with us is provided with three spring and three fall garden lessons for each class.
Greenhouse Field Trips
Through a partnership with Western Technical College we are able to offer field trips to students at our state-of-the-art greenhouse space in the WTC Horticulture Education Center. These experiences provide hands-on opportunities to learn about urban agriculture, sustainability and how local food systems are supported through different indoor growing techniques, even during cold Wisconsin winters. Greenhouse field trips are tailored to grade level curriculum goals to ensure students are able to make connections to the content covered during the field trip to their classroom science and nutrition lessons.
Through farm experiences, we connect youth to healthy food and nature. During field trips and farm camps, we engage in the real daily work of the farm including planting, tending, and harvesting vegetables and caring for the farm animals (horses, pigs, chickens, cows). Education about the biology of the natural world, in particular conservation biology, underlies all the activities. Participants also learn about the daily needs of farm animals by caring for them.
Garden-based Enrichment & Community Building Events
As an organization our main goal is to connect youth to healthy food and nature to nourish growing minds and bodies. Outside of our core programming of school garden education, greenhouse field trips and farm experiences we also host events to engage the community in the act of growing and exploring healthy foods.
During the summer months we host Open Garden events. These events serve to give families a chance to visit different growing spaces to participate in a structured learning activity and harvest food to take home. The Kids Cooking Challenge series of events also provide hands-on opportunities to explore healthy ingredients and how to incorporate them into meals.
Our spring plant sale encourages community members to grow their own produce while also raising funds to support all of our programming.
The Great GROW Get Together is a community building event designed to celebrate garden education, raise awareness about the importance of giving youth opportunities to be a part of the growing process to build a healthy community while also raising funds to support our mission.