QUINCY -- Thirteen-year-old Ryan Caldwell doesn't have much experience with plants, but he's convinced he has a green thumb.
So is 12-year-old Taniya Hatchett.
Both will get a chance to prove it thanks to a project that provided small flowerpots, seeds and gardening basics to young people involved with Teen Reach.
It's part of a larger effort bringing raised garden beds this summer to the community surrounding the Teen Reach headquarters at 815 Elm, but "I wanted you to have your very own plant," said Margie Williams with 5210 Let's Go, an initiative led by the Adams County Health Department and United Way of Adams County. "I want you to learn how to care for and watch something grow."
Making that commitment takes work.
"You've got to watch it and stuff, water it," Taniya said as she added her name and designs to a flowerpot before planting zinnia seeds.
But planting something -- in this case zinnias, sunflowers or chives -- also brings some rewards, including helping to inspire healthy living.
The afternoon of planting continued a recent 5210 family night activity to reinforce the importance of healthy eating and active living every day by eating five servings of fruits and vegetables, no more than two hours of recreational screen time, one hour of physical activity and zero sugary drinks.
"A lot of people don't eat fruits and vegetables, but I believe if you grow it, you will eat it," said Williams, a nurse educator for more than three decades focused on community health and experiential learning.
That spurs community garden projects, but "the downside of community gardens outside is they're only good until it gets cold," Williams said. Using an aeroponic tower garden, like the ones displayed at the family night, extends the growing season to year-round both indoors and out.
"If you want to garden and can't, a tower garden is great for people with disabilities, people who are older and great for parents and children," Williams said. "The tower garden does go outside, but sometimes people just keep it inside. Lettuce can't grow outside when it gets warm out, but this allows you to grow those kinds of greens all year."
Williams convinced some of the youngsters to taste from her garden.
"They were not really excited about it," she said. "We had to persuade some to try and eat lettuce."
There's value, too, just in being around a garden -- or a plant.
"People love to see green things," Williams said.
Williams opted for easy-to-grow plants for a first-time effort for many of the kids.
"What I love about zinnia is you can't kill them. They seem to be very hardy," she said. "If you want to try growing food, chives grow real well and don't die easily."
With all the seeds planted, Williams offered some final instructions to the Teen Reach youth.
"When you get it home, give it a little water," she said. "Put it in a sunny spot, talk to it and say grow."