“There is technology in our lives, Play School has literally saved my life on many occasion. But it seems to me when people are justifying why their child is watching an iPAD while eating dinner they say, “well technology is a part of our world now.” Natasha Grogan.
Natasha Grogan is one of those lucky people thoroughly in love with what they do. She enjoys being around kids, earth, and sustainable living.
Her business, ‘The Sage Garden’ shows children and their families how to grow organic fruit, herbs and veggies by taking its green thumbed message straight into homes, child care centres, kindergartens and even into primary schools.
Martine Harte: So Natasha what compelled you to launch your own organic garden teaching business?
Natasha Grogan: I have always loved working with children. In my late teens I developed a love for organic gardening and I knew that combining the two was where my heart wanted to be. Over the years it became more and more evident that a) children seemed to be losing touch with the natural world and b) their families were keen to introduce growing food to their children’s lives but didn’t know where to start.
Launching my own business was a bit of a slow burn. I came up with the idea in 2010, and started home visits and a couple of kinder incursions but it wasn’t until this year that I decided to launch it as my full-time project.
MH: How does the Sage Garden work?
NG: The Sage Garden began as a home-based program where I would go to families homes and help them build and maintain their own veggie gardens. I then began to offer kindergarten, childcare and school incursions where I run gardening sessions with the children. We have a range of different activities from establishing and planting out veggie beds, to planting edible seeds for the children to take home, to making natural bug sprays. Now I have expanded to running workshops with city councils, markets and amazing groups like Dumbo Feather.
I have just finished designing a discovery garden, including three veggie beds, for a Kindergarten. At this point I feel like the sky is the limit, I will do anything to encourage children, families and communities to get their hands dirty and grow their own food. The Sage Garden also has a Facebook page that I like to update every Saturday morning to inspire people to get out in their gardens with a task in mind.
MH: Can you fill us in on your background?
NG: I was born in 1979 in Vermont South, Melbourne…maybe I’ll skip the early years. In 1998 I moved to London to be a working and travelling nanny. It was there I fell in love with organic gardening and decided I wanted to teach children how to grow their own organic produce. When I returned home in 2000 there wasn’t anything that existed combining those two ideas.
I decided to study Steiner education where I could begin my teaching degree as well as learn about biodynamic farming. After two years training, I went on to complete my Bachelor of Education via correspondence through UNE. After this I thought I should gain some actual skills as a gardener, rather than being a garden lover and devoted organic book collector! I got my Diploma of Horticulture at Swinburne TAFE. In 2008, I was lucky enough to score a job as a Stephanie Alexander Garden Specialist and the rest as they say is history!
MH: You spent several years working in Stephanie Alexander’s Kitchen Garden Program at different schools? The experience must have been invaluable?
NG: My 4 and a half years as a Stephanie Alexander Garden Specialist was without a doubt my best education, from both a gardening perspective and a teaching perspective. I got to see through the seasons with my garden beds, try different approaches to plant health and natural bug sprays. I became very attached to the school gardens, and would often find myself there in the early hours of a summer morning checking if everyone was okay!
MH: Is a there a stand out ‘golden moment’ when you saw a little boy or girl experience pure joy from your teachings?
NG: There are special moments every time you are in a garden with a child (or alone…or with an adult!) I think for me the most recent have been with my own child. After working with children for 18 years, to have my own is pretty amazing. A couple of weeks ago I found her laying in the soil, digging with her garden tools saying “where are you worms?” I just felt overwhelmed; I love the sense of freedom she displays when she is in nature and how she just embraces all the elements.
MH: How important is it to teach children that fruit and veggies don’t come miraculously come to us via the shops?
NG: There is technology in our lives, Play School has literally saved my life on many occasion. But it seems to me when people are justifying why their child is watching an iPAD while eating dinner they say, “well technology is a part of our world now.” Absolutely true but not as much a part of our world as food is.
Over the years I have watched children who “don’t eat anything”, grow and tend to their growing crops, harvest and cook the food and suddenly their plate is empty. Why wouldn’t you want to try that little red ball that was a seed once, then a stem, then a flower and now your food? It still blows my mind. When children have a connection with their food they are more inclined enjoy it.