Gardenkids of Kemah aims to help local youth 'protect, plant and play'

The Kemah-based nonprofit has provided urban farm experiences to local youth since 2013. (Courtesy Gardenkids of Kemah)
The Kemah-based nonprofit has provided urban farm experiences to local youth since 2013. (Courtesy Gardenkids of Kemah)

The Kemah-based nonprofit has provided urban farm experiences to local youth since 2013. (Courtesy Gardenkids of Kemah)

League City residents interested in learning more about Bay Area sustainability efforts can do so by spending time with the Gardenkids of Kemah staff at Hometown Heroes Park this weekend.

Gardenkids of Kemah will join League City’s arborist and various vendors at 1001 E. League City Parkway, League City, from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Sept. 19 at Eco Fest. The event is free and open to the public.

Eco Fest will include live animal interactions, mini-classes about everyday sustainability, a farmer’s market and more, and Gardenkids of Kemah will have local honey. There will be 250 free trees given out during the first hour of the festival, and arborist Heather McKnight will teach residents how to successfully plant the trees at their homes.

Since 2013, Gardenkids of Kemah’s mission has been to protect the environment, plant food and have fun—or “protect, plant and play”—through urban farm experiences.

Although COVID-19 has limited or halted some of the nonprofit’s four annual events and six ongoing programs, project lead Sheila Thorne said she and the staff hope to continue “encouraging and embracing a greater community for our kids.”


Prior to the pandemic, the nonprofit offered a free monthly cooking class at a local church’s commercial kitchen. Families would come and cook with their children using home-grown produce from the nonprofit’s garden, Thorne said, and the class allowed attendees to learn food cutting and preparation skills through easy-to-cook dishes.

The cooking classes, however, are on hold, and Gardenkids of Kemah is trying to shift some activities virtually; the nonprofit hopes to work with Helen Hall Library to offer video classes.

“We’re trying to adapt, technology-wise. ... The last thing on anybody’s mind [before COVID-19 was technology],” Thorne added.

This fall, the nonprofit will work with Dickinson’s 4H troops for the Master Beekeeper Junior class. Other programs include the Junior Master Gardener and pollinator highway project, the latter of which is another major focus of Gardenkids of Kemah’s work in the coming months.

Gardenkids of Kemah aims to help save bees and butterflies by creating a network of plants to feed and nurture the pollinator populations, Thorne said. The goal is to install 5,000 pollinator-friendly plants throughout Galveston County in backyards, gardens and open green spaces.

Small group activities and workshops on the farm will take place with no more than 10 people this fall and follow proper health and safety guidelines, Thorne said. The property is viewable by appointment only and includes multiple garden beds, fruit trees, herbs and small livestock, such as rabbits, chickens, goats and honeybees.

Gardenkids of Kemah’s programs allow Houstonians to enjoy farm life without living on a farm, learn about where food comes from or help with pollination efforts, Thorne said.

“It doesn’t matter where they live. ... That’s the beauty of our program,” she said, adding that the goal is to create a lasting culture of sustainability among local youth. “They’re the ones that are going to inherit this planet.”

By Colleen Ferguson
A native central New Yorker, Colleen Ferguson worked as an editorial intern with the Cy-Fair and Lake Houston | Humble | Kingwood editions of Community Impact before joining the Bay Area team in 2020. Colleen graduated from Syracuse University in 2019, where she worked for the campus's independent student newspaper The Daily Orange, with a degree in Newspaper and Online Journalism from the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications and a degree in Spanish language and culture. Colleen previously interned with The Journal News/lohud, where she covered the commute in the greater New York City area.

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