If you’ve been following #JafferFarm on Instagram, you’ve probably seen pictures of our adventures (and misadventures) in vegetable gardening. I can barely keep my cactus alive in the house, so why would I invest the time, money and energy into growing our own food?

  1. First and foremost, I’ve always wanted to try it. Just give it a go! I think that’s probably the most important reason for growing a vegetable garden, or doing anything, really. Why do gardens intrigue me? Why did I spend a fair chunk of my grad school years cutting out pictures of gardens and herbs from magazines? Why do my hands like the feel of moist, rich soil? Why do I love driving down farm roads? Why, as a college student, did I search real estate listings for hobby farms? I DON’T KNOW! And I don’t need to know. I just need to follow that curiosity and incorporate it into my suburban life. So, why NOT, really?
  2. Kids need to know what real food is. Since my kids were little (little-ER), I’ve always talked about food in terms of being real or not. For example, I ask them to choose real foods for their snacks, and as treats they can have something that’s not real. I know, it’s strange to treat yourself to something that isn’t necessarily good for you. But, whatever. The point is, I want them to know that real food grows, it has life, it has lived on land or in the sea or in the air. Because we also talk about God in our home, I incorporate that into how we talk about food. Did God make it or did people in a factory make it? That helps them determine what’s real. Considering my favourite snack is Lay’s Regular Potato Chips sprinkled with Louisiana Hot Sauce, I’m not judging people’s choices, but I’m hoping my kids can at least make educated decisions. Watching fruits and veggies grow, I think, cements the fact that Nature is super involved in this process!
  3. It’s a cool family project. The kids were special helpers to my husband in the actual building of the planters. They helped us shop for seeds and plants after making a list of what they want to grow. They water the planters. And once we figure out what’s a weed and what’s not, they’ll be helping us pull out weeds! We’ve also had some mishaps in the construction part (actually had a planter completely fall apart once the soil was put in!), and the kids got to see how we handled the disappointment, re-built it with extra reinforcements and crossed our fingers for the best. Honestly, if they weren’t watching I think we would have used way more curse words. Also, the other day we figured out what’s been eating away at our zucchini plant: a small black bird. My daughter suggested she and her brother make a scarecrow. Who knows if that will work, but I am pleased they felt invested enough in this project that they are showing this initiative.
  4. I like knowing about my food. I cook a lot at home. I’d say 5 or 6 out of 7 days we’re eating fresh, from scratch meals. Or if we use jars, we’re pretty good about reading labels and make the best choices we can. This kind of takes it one step further where I know how the produce is grown, what kind of soil I’m using, the seeds, the plants, the water.
  5. I want to set my kids up to feel confident about using their hands to create things. That might sound weird. But you know, there isn’t a whole heckuva lot we have to do these days ‘from scratch’ or without computers. With vegetable gardening, there’s only so much you can read and research and ask people; at some point, you just gotta do it! Plant the freaking seeds and see what happens! Or doesn’t! From #4 you can see that I like to control things. So, this point is probably the most difficult for me. But at the same time, I’m beginning to see that this isn’t a dire situation. I’m very grateful that my family will survive if that damn bird eats all of my zucchini plants. There will be things that do work, and that will be our focus.


The amazing thing is, as we were building the planters, I received an email from Cristel Moubarak, Culinary Dietitian of NutriFoodie! When I read about how she teaches nutrition, food-literacy and cooking to kids and adults, I definitely wanted to learn more about these camps she’s been running since the summer of 2012. In particular, the From Ground to Table camp intrigued me because it totally aligns with our own veggie garden goals. There are many more camps for kids focused on food restrictions, identifying ‘phony’ foods, multicultural cooking, and overall wellness through moving and eating.

I know many parents are scrambling right now to find camps for their kids this summer to keep them entertained and engaged, and everything I’ve read about NutriFoodie made me want to point these out to you! I also loved learning that Cristel truly is about nutrition (the science and wellness aspect) AND she’s a foodie – someone who is passionate about flavours, and bringing people together through food.

I’m always happy to share businesses of passion with my readers, in particular small, budding ones that I believe are revolutionary. I also love that NutriFoodie supports local organizations through proceeds; this year, the donations will be benefiting Planted which is a food community that supports charities providing equitable and sustainable food security options.

So, there you have it – the reasons why we’ve taken the plunge known as #JafferFarm, plus some great camps you might want to sign up for! Don’t forget to check out the adult classes that may even be covered by your extended health plan.

taslim jaffer, let me out creative