Sprouting Hearts: Instilling a love for gardening in foster kids in Wasilla Alaska

Twenty years ago I would have laughed at you if you said I’d be that lady standing in the middle of a garden with my sun hat, bending over and pulling weeds. Twenty years ago I was in high school, living in my 5th foster home, doing very well. I was in a stable environment, surrounded by an amazing network of people for the first time in a long time. Gardening wasn’t something I was familiar with–I had farming experience (bottle feeding calves and changing pipe) but nothing to really convince me that dirt and muck would be my thing!

In 2005, I began domestication! It started pretty simple; we bought our first home and with a limited growing area. I could only grow tulips, but I grew as many as I could. I wanted so badly to grow more things. We moved eight years later and I had my husband build me four raised beds. I grew tomatoes, beets, carrots and potatoes . . . successfully. That was all it took. I was hooked. Today I have fourteen raised beds and numerous ground beds . . . I am obsessed.

In the midst of this growing gardening obsession, my longing to foster children tugs even more heavily on my heart. For a family of six, we live in a small house and in the foster care world they have requirements for fostering children (it’s a good thing) and house size is a factor for meeting those requirements. We cannot foster children until our home is bigger. I was sad and frustrated at this news, but I understood. However, I prayed and was determined to somehow work with the foster world. What could I do to share my talents, other than open my home? Then it hit me: the most logical option, gardening.
I started getting nosy. I knew across the street from our home was a boys group home, but first, I needed to come across serious. I enrolled in the Alaska Master Gardner Online Program, which to me seemed selfish as I was getting the best of both worlds (a license and working in the foster world). I contacted the director to see if gardening would be an option for the boys and then shared my vision. She loved it and gave me the green light! Then I went crazy. I thought not only can I help with the four garden beds they currently have, but let let’s get them a green house.

Three months have passed since this all started. I started a GoFundMe campaign. Friends and family donated but we weren’t even close to paying for a greenhouse. My father-in-law works for Spenard Builders Supply, so I reached out to them to see if they would be willing to help out in any way. After many long conversations and back and forth emails, the general manager, Kevin Saiki calls me. Between Spenard Builders Supply and Matsu Home Builders Association, they donated an 8 x 10 ft. greenhouse to the Presbyterian Hospitality House. I cried like a baby and like that, my dream of working in the foster care world has become real.
boys

The boys in the home started all their own seeds, prepped the garden beds and planted their starts. This past week they built the greenhouse with my husband. I am not sure if I am more excited or if they are. To see how proud they are of their work makes my heart swell. As the seeds continue to sprout in their garden, I pray that in some way, a love for gardening sprouts within their own hearts.

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