ayden_digs_webkirsten_radish_webCopy of ayden_picking_webAway flew the helipad and up popped a pea patch.

Children are learning to raise vegetables where emergency airlifts once landed in a teaching garden started by Children’s dietitian Kirsten Thompson. 

Thompson, whose master’s thesis was about gardening with kids, began looking for a place to plant a teaching garden when she joined Children’s in 2008. The opportunity finally arrived this spring when the Forest zone expansion – a.k.a. Building Hope – was completed and the helipad moved to a site near our new Emergency Department. 

This summer, Children’s patients like Ayden Mages tended the garden for an hour every Wednesday before heading inside with their families to prepare garden-inspired meals. The goal is to encourage and empower kids and families to eat healthy. 

The local Whole Food store brings groceries each week to supplement what the garden provides. After families cook, they take the leftover groceries and all they can harvest from the garden so they can prepare nutritious meals at home. 

Thompson was working with Ayden, 9, to help him control his high blood pressure when she invited him to lend a hand in the garden. “I like planting, watering, thinning and weeding,” Ayden says. “It’s been fun to learn this stuff.”

Although Ayden likes growing veggies better than eating them, he eats more of them since he started working in the garden. “He realizes now where vegetables come from and he at least tries them,” says his mom, Trisha.

The garden is a communal effort. A master gardener from the community designed the garden, volunteers built the beds and the Bloom for Children’s Guild maintains it on the days kids don’t.

In addition, a number of Thompson’s colleagues at Children’s helped her get the project off the ground, including Polly Lenssen, director of Nutrition, Jeff Hughes, manager of Grounds and Sustainability, Randy Katzenberg, groundskeeper, and Rachel Tefft, nutrition fellow.

Good growing, everyone!