10 Reasons to Consider an Intergenerational (IG) Gardening Program

1. Kids learn where food comes from–the entire seed to table process: sowing seeds, watering, transplanting, weeding and care, harvesting and sharing a meal. No longer will you hear kids say that food comes from the grocery store! (Or worse a restaurant or drive-through window!)

2. Older Adults enjoy being teachers. They have long-term knowledge about gardening. In the 75+ segment many grew-up on small farms or their families grew veggies and raised chickens to help ends meet during the 1930’s. In the 1940’s they learned all about Victory Gardens to support the war effort.  IG Garden Club is great for older adults with mild cognitive impairment as well. You are tapping into their long term memories while helping kids. It’s a win-win! 

3. Everyone loves to eat what they grow themselves!! Kids will try veggies you never dreamed of them eating if they had a hand in growing them. You can  taste-test your crops together on harvest days and send kids home with a sample and a nutritious recipe.

4. Parents love it and they represent another generation in the mix. Be sure to develop your program so that parents stay and participate. Especially if you are building this program in Assisted Living. This is an important safety issue. The older adults are not free baby-sitters and neither are you.  You need parents to manage their own children and encourage their kids to participate. Also, they provide a vital conversation for the older adults. They bond over the beautiful children gardening and memories. If you keep parents engaged and learning with their kid, they will keep coming back!

6. Fresh air and sunshine Seriously, get outside! Health and Human Service Agencies recommend a minimum of one hour a day of outdoor play. This doesn’t have to be on the soccer field. It can be puttering around the garden.

7. Be in service to others Consider if your garden can be a Food Bank Garden, where you donate the produce to a local food bank or shelter program. Add a row of cut flowers to your garden so you can make floral arrangements one day and give them to the older adults in your program.

8. You can fail with a crop and still succeed with the program! Things gone wrong in the garden are learning opportunities. Investigate, make the kids do some research on why a plant died– Too much/too little water? Not enough sunlight? A bad bug attack? Rabbits, Gophers and Birds? Not enough nutrients in your soil? Are you trying to grow something in the wrong growing season? Whatever the case, simple solutions can be found and you can all try again. Life is messy like that and nature will improvise!

9. Celebrate! This is your outdoor classroom. Have fun! In addition to seeding, watering, harvesting, etc. there are so many games and projects to do in the garden. It’s nice when you can work in small groups or IG pairs (A Kid and Older Adult Buddy).  A scavenger hunt, discuss colors, talk nutrition, go bird-watching, build a worm bin, release lady bugs, make vegetable puppets, make Raw Food recipes (no stove or oven required).

10. It doesn’t have to take place in a  garden. An IG Gardening program can happen with container gardening. It can be at picnic tables on the patio with lesson plans. You could do a simple herb garden that attendees set in their kitchen window. The purpose is learning and playing together! To create warm interactions and let seniors help kids learn the full seed to table process. You could even call it an IG Nature Program if you live in an area where gardens only flourish a few months of the year.

If you have questions on how to structure garden club, feel free to leave them in the comments or e-mail me at lisa@sunshinecare.com

Here’s some exciting news about our IG Garden Club:

Sunshine Care’s IG Garden Club has been featured on KPBS “A Growing Passion”! 

“A Growing Passion” Visits Gardens with a Greater Purpose

Host Nan Sterman visits Sunshine Care Assisted Living Homes to learn more about their Intergenerational Garden Club.

 SAN DIEGO (February 27, 2014) – A Growing Passion, the gardening and lifestyle program on KPBS-TV explores the power of plants and nature to change lives.  In this week’s episode “Growing Dreams and Memories”, host Nan Sterman visits three San Diego area gardens that have a greater purpose like promoting health, speeding recovery, or encouraging well-being.

At Sunshine Care Assisted Living Facility in Poway, CA, gardens introduce children to the magic of planting, growing, and interacting with elders.  Local children garden with seniors residents of Sunshine Care’s memory care facility.  Children learn the joys of planting, growing and harvesting from elders with long memories of time spent on farms and in gardens.  The foods and flowers they grow together are used on site.  Extras are donated to the local food bank.  Learn more at www.sunshinecare.com

One Resident at Sunshine Care Assisted Living shared his memory of picking and eating fried green tomatoes.  Here’s a recipe for this traditional southern dish.

Fried Green Tomatoes Recipe


  • 4 medium, firm green tomatoes
  • 2 tsp Kosher Salt
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 Tbsp Cajun seasoning (optional)
  • 1/2 cup milk or buttermilk
  • 2 egg
  • 1/3 cup cornmeal
  • 1/2 cup fine dry bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup peanut oil or other vegetable oil


1. Cut unpeeled tomatoes into 1/2 inch slices. Sprinkle slices with salt. Let tomato slices stand for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, place in separate shallow bowls: the flour and Cajun seasoning (if using), buttermilk and egg, and bread crumbs and cornmeal.

 2.  Heat the peanut oil in a skillet on medium heat. Beat the egg and the buttermilk together. Dip tomato slices in the flour-seasoning mix, then buttermilk-egg mixture, then the cornmeal-bread crumb mix. In the skillet, fry half of the coated tomato slices at a time, for 3-5 minutes on each side or until brown. Set the cooked tomatoes on paper towels to drain.  (need to credit source)

 About “A Growing Passion”

In the same episode Sterman also visits Archi’s Acres, a Valley Center hydroponics farm that “grows” military veterans into hydroponics entrepreneurs, and St. Madeleine Sophie’s Center in El Cajon where adults with developmental disabilities learn important life skills and build confidence in the facility’s 2-acre garden and retail nursery.

“A Growing Passion” is about all the ways that San Diego and San Diegans grow. The program, hosted by California native Nan Sterman, celebrates the natural and manmade landscapes that characterize San Diego’s social, cultural, environmental, and economic sectors.  Sterman has dedicated her career to growing and to promoting a sustainable, waterwise approach to gardening.

“A Growing Passion” airs Thursdays at 8:30pm and Saturdays at 1:00pm on KPBS and is available anytime on www.KPBS.org. For more information on the series, please visit www.AGrowingPassion.com. For daily updates and news, become a fan www.Facebook.com/AGrowingPassion.




Categories: Memory Care

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