Government Teaching Kids How to Garden – Part II

Written by Jeff Johnson on March 12, 2012. Posted in General

Waaaaay back when (actually July of 2010), I posted on a request by Hennepin County for $600,000 from the LCCMR (the legislative body that distributes money from the State Lottery to environmental projects in Minnesota) to teach kids in North Minneapolis and at the County Home School for juvenile offenders how to garden.  The post is excerpted below:

Last week, the county board voted 6-1 (I was the “no” vote) in support of a county request to the Legislative -Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources (“LCCMR”) to fund a proposed $700,000 county program called UrbanWatch… The kicker: $600,000 of this public money would be spent to help kids plant and maintain 40 gardens in the urban core of Minneapolis and at the Home School. In other words, we would be spending $15,000 each for 40 “community gardens” in the name of environmental education…

In the end, the LCCMR might not fund this particular program, but our decision to even make the request is evidence of the fact that we in government need to be constantly reminded of the following principle: The money we spend does not fall from heaven like manna but is taken from our constituents through the power of government. We should spend every dollar as carefully as though it was coming from our own pockets – in which case I suspect that most of us would find the prospect of a $15,000 garden absurd.

In the end, the LCCMR did fund a variation of this county request, although for only $200,000 rather than $700,000.  We learned last week how that money will be spent and, being the half-full glass sort of guy that I am, I’lll be thankful that the final program doesn’t sound quite as ridiculous as the original proposal (although still quite questionable in my simple mind). 

Instead of funding 40 gardens, $50,000 of the money will go toward teacher workshops on environmental education and $150,000 will fund 5 different programs directed toward North Minneapolis youth.  The five programs and their stated purpose:

Sustainable Education Urban Farm – Implement student-led agriculture projects on campus (such as a chicken coop, hoop garden, rain barrels and organics composting) that will serve as experiential tools through which to foster a stronger sense of environmental connection, understanding, stewardship and participation.

Together Renewing Our Urban Peoples’ Environment – Provide transformative environmental educational opportunities that prepare young people in North Minneapolis to serve as leaders who promote collective responsibility for renewing the health of the local environment through planning and implementation of environmental education and action with other youth and community members.

Environmental Explorers! – Year-long project engaging youth in multi-disciplinary environmental programming utilizing community collaboration and topical expertise.

Community Bees on Bikes – To educate and empower youth through bicycle-powered beekeeping by establishing and supporting honeybee hives at community gardens.

Project Aqua – To bring a year-round horticultural experience to North High School (through an aquaponics based education program).

You can form your own judgment as to the wisdom of each of these programs.  I will only state what becomes more obvious to me each and every day: Our government is not in dire need of more money!

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