EMBARGOED: Young Gardener Awards reveal kids really dig digging!

After searching the country high and low, T&G Global and Garden to Table are proud to announce the winners of the first T&G Garden to Table Young Gardener of the Year Awards.

Primary schools and children from all over New Zealand involved with the Garden to Table programme were offered the opportunity to enter the awards for a chance to win a range of prizes and gardening goodies.

In total, nearly 70 applications were received from both children aged between 7 and 11 and schools.
The awards were judged by well-known New Zealand gardening journalist and broadcaster, Lynda Hallinan; acclaimed New Zealand chef and restauranteur, Al Brown; executive officer at Garden to Table, Linda Taylor and executive general manager of NZ Produce at T&G Global, Andrew Keaney.
And after much digging, here are the winners of the 2017 T&G Garden to Table Young Gardener of the Year Awards. Each receive a gardening prize pack worth $500:

Emma Walsh, age 7, from North Loburn School, North Canterbury (click here to read Emma’s full application and view images)

Emma is a special needs student who has 4p Syndrome and very limited speech. Her application was written by her mother. Emma’s mum, says: “Gardening for Emma, is a source of wonder, connection with others, peace, calm and pride. It allows her to find success without the challenges of speech, written language and mathematics found in the classroom.

“Emma takes pleasure and pride in all aspects – from the yucky, mucky and gunky experiences to the miraculous, colourful and tasty delights of gardening. Her love for planting and harvesting doesn’t outweigh her love to nurture and care for the garden. She delights in seeing plants grow, it amazes her how they have a life that evolves and can reproduce itself.”

Qwincey Mennell, age 10, from Dominion Road School, West Auckland (click here to read Qwincey’s full application and view images)

Qwincey says: “My favourite thing about gardening is learning to grow fruits, vegetables and trees. Without these we wouldn’t be able to live!

“I am proud of growing two apple trees from an apple core. I ate an apple then I got a cup and some damp tissue. I put the seeds from the core onto this then covered the cup with gladwrap. I put the cup in the hot water cupboard to stay warm. Every two days I checked on my seeds and watered the tissue if it was drying out. After two weeks my mum checked and told me my seed was growing! I potted the seedings in some soil and looked after them, checking morning and night to see if they needed water. Soon they had grown from seedlings into saplings.

“It’s a good skill to know how to grow your own food instead of buying it. I also love spending time outside and getting muddy.”

John Lundy, age 7, from North Loburn School, North Canterbury (click here to read John’s full application and view images)

John says: “I get to garden at school and at home. I take pride in our school gardens and use what we grow to cook with in our Garden to Table cooking classes. I gained a knife license at school to chop up the vegetables that we grow.

“The reward for gardening is the fun and the fresh vegetables you get after you’ve planted them. I love the tools, dirt, food and flowers, the bugs, insects and worms. Gardening is a passion of mine.

“My proudest moment is when my Dad used the farm drill and planted two big rows of peas for me in a paddock – 50kg of peas for fun and yummy yummy yummy! He did it for me and his Dad used to do it for him!”

Maima Ieru, age 10, from Cannons Creek Primary, Lower Hutt, Wellington Canterbury (click here to read Maima’s full application and view images)

Maima says: “I love everything about gardening. I love propagating. Last year, we took cuttings with our garden teacher and grew Chinese lantern plants. I love planting things too. This year I helped plant an apricot tree. I have never eaten an apricot from a tree so I am excited to one day eat one.

“This year I asked my teacher if I could have my own garden and she said yes! I had to weed it first because there were lots of weeds like montbretia and wild pea. There were grass grubs there too and white cabbage butterfly. I planted osteospermum and fuzzy wuzzies! Also daffodil bulbs, violas and wallflowers.”

Freddie Meere, age 10, from Te Huruhi School, Waiheke, Auckland (click here to read Freddie’s full application and view images)

Freddie says: “I’ve learnt a lot about gardening and am intrigued by how fun it is. But my favourite part is eating! In the garden, it’s a nice peaceful space and I like looking at the plants and smelling the lavender.
“My proudest gardening moment is when I pulled out a big big root with a fork. It took three people to carry it to the compost pile. All the roots and other weeds we pulled out have turned into really, really, nice compost. Our teacher says it was the best compost he’s ever seen and it has taken him six years to create his compost pile, including our roots and other weeds. I am also proud of my efforts!”

Taking out the 2017 T&G Garden to Table School of the Year Award, is:

Haumoana School, Hastings, Hawke’s Bay (click here to read Haumoana’s full application)
Teacher, Jon Lovell, says: “The children absolutely thrive on the opportunities provided by the Garden to Table programme. Be-it in the kitchen or garden, they are totally engaged and thoroughly enjoy the opportunity for ‘hands on’ real life learning. The garden has become a real focal point for the children as they proudly share their learnings with their parents, siblings and school mates. Many of the children have been the driving force in planting gardens at home, based on the enthusiasm they have gained with the school garden. Many of the children (7-8 years old) also now cook on a regular basis for their families.
“The children had the wonderful experience of growing produce for a local restaurant as there was a regional shortage of rocket and we had more than enough. The restaurant owner came in and discussed the quality with the children and what they were looking for. We then came up with branding, packaging and a system for harvesting, washing, drying and weighing the rocket. The children loved the opportunity to provide a quality product and were very proud that ‘our rocket’ was on Pipi pizzas.”

Other schools recognised for their efforts include Diamond Harbour School in Banks Peninsula, Canterbury, who were awarded second place and Forrest Hill School on the North Shore in Auckland, who were awarded third place.

“This is the first year the awards have taken place and all of the judges were blown away by the standard of applications received! It’s fantastic to see such enthusiasm for getting outside, being active and learning key skills that will see them through life,” Linda Taylor from Garden to Table says. “All the judges were incredibly impressed by the drive children showed for gardening.

“Reading through the applications, lots of children said their favourite part about gardening was digging, sowing, nurturing plants, growing worm farms, harvesting and cooking with their produce.

“Others took things to a whole new level, showing they had entrepreneurial skills by selling the produce they had grown (some to their local restaurants), trying to grow a new hybrid of fruit and naming an impressive list of vegetables that I’m sure their parents hadn’t even heard of,” says Linda.

“What’s particularly brilliant about the Garden to Table programme, aside from all the fun the children have, is they learn so many fundamental skills. For example, they learn where food comes from, how to prepare and cook with it, how to work alongside peers and an understanding of seasonality. They are also introduced to foods that they may otherwise not have heard of, and are encouraged to cook and eat them!”
Andrew Keaney, executive general manager of NZ Produce at T&G Global, says: “Firstly I’d like to say a ‘big congratulations’ to the winning school and of course, our young gardeners. A ‘big well done’ also goes out to all the children who had the courage to apply, it was a tough job to judge!

“Working for a company that has a rich history of growing fresh produce for 120 years, it’s extremely humbling to see so many kids sharing our passion and taking their families and local communities on the journey with them.

“Through the Garden to Table programme, not only are children learning key skills, they are also gaining an understanding of where food comes from. For example, one school shared the story of how through the programme, a child learned that carrots were grown in the ground, this is just beautiful! What’s more, getting children outside and having fun in a different learning environment that’s not the traditional school classroom is a fantastic way to enrich their experience, plus research also shows that kids thrive from this, so it really is a win-win.”

The T&G Garden to Table Young Gardener of the Year Awards will run again next year with the view to empowering more young growers. Find out more at www.younggardenerawards.co.nz and www.gardentotable.co.nz.