As a mum I want the best for my kids and one of the most basic ways to ensure they get the best out of life is to make sure what they put into their bodies is the freshest, nutrient rich food I can give them. They grow so fast and I feel like I am buying new shoes for each new school term at the moment. Having a couple of almost pre-teen boys is like having a couple of bottomless pits and it seems the hole is never filled. They are always hungry.

As they grow, the need to make sure I can offer them healthy food is just as strong as when they were babies, trying food for the first time. What they eat becomes the building blocks for turning these kids into young men.   This is something as a mum I can give them and while my garden gives me immense pleasure, it was borne out to a desire to give my family fresh, healthy vegetables, straight from the garden where the nutrients haven’t diminished during the supply chain process.

I know exactly where the veggies have come from, and I have made an informed decision on what has happened to them while they were growing, especially when it comes to pest control and taking care of the weeds trying to grow up and around my crops. Only the best for my family.

While it is not necessary or easy to be completely self-sufficient, I am doing the best with what I have. And not only am I giving them good food, but I’m teaching them some valuable life skills. Food doesn’t come wrapped in plastic, it comes from dirt. And dirt is a living thing that needs nutrients returned to it, to replace what was taken in the harvest. This teaches the boys that they need to care for the things that give them what they need, and realise the world isn’t as disposable as it may seem.

While they might not be so willing to help in the garden with the same level of enthusiasm I have for growing our food, they still enjoy eating from the veggie patch and it does my heart good to see them eating fresh peas straight from the plant, or pulling a carrot to briefly quell the constant hunger of a growing lad. They are involved in the garden whether they like it or not.  They are learning about the rhythms of nature, and the seasons.

When we do work together planting seeds, I know that they a learning a skill that will mean they will never go hungry, should their adult world ever turn upside down. If they can find a spot of earth and some seeds they will be ok.   They will know what to do. The rest of the time they probably won’t lift a spade at all.

However one day they will find themselves in exactly the same position I found myself in. Looking upon some small, vulnerable little people who look to them for everything. Their hearts will flood with longing to do what is the very best for these kids and will remember what their mum did for them and feed them the freshest food possible grown right there in their own backyards. And as they turn that soil and pull endless weeds, they will realise that the main reason I had a garden was because of the love I had for them, and it was the least I could do.

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Sarah O’Neil lives on a small 3 acre lifestyle block. The family moved from the big city to the country in 2007. Sarah has published 3 books, including The Good Life, four glorious seasons in my country garden. She's also an award-winning blogger, winning a Yates Vegie Growing Challenge and still writes regularly. Visit Sarah’s website at sarahthegardener.co.nz.

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