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Helping Our Children Grow Organically

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"Nana, what else can you teach me?"

This is what my niece whispered into my mother's ear as she drifted off to sleep after a busy day learning what used to be called the domestic arts. My mother taught her granddaughter how to knit, how to make pastry, and how to do laundry. "The next thing I want to share with her," my mother reported with glee, "Is how seeds germinate and grow into plants."

Thanks to Surf City Growers she's got a product that can help her do that and help my niece learn about the importance of organic gardening, too. My First Organics is a seed starting kit that teaches kids how and why to grow organic produce. Each kit includes a mini greenhouse, organic seeds, soil, and biodegradable pots. Step by step kid friendly guidance and illustrations are also included. My First Organics comes in a variety of veggies and herbs - everything from cherry and heirloom tomatoes to snap peas, butternut squash, and parsley - that can be transplanted into garden plots or containers. The kits are available online in the U.S., and at Pistachio in Canada.

Surf City Growers co-founder and president, Linda McNair, told me that, with two kids at home, her family is always looking for fun and educational activities to do together. "We're hungry for things that will get our kids away from the TV and computer, and get them outside connecting with nature." She added that My First Organics is being snapped up as a fundraiser for schools and youth groups. "It's a healthy and eco-friendly alternative to the candy, cookies, and gift wrap that are usually on offer."

How did Linda and her husband, Trent, start Surf City Growers? They're classic New Radical Entrepreneurs (New Radicals are people who leverage the skills they acquired in their careers and put them to work on the world's greatest challenges). After toiling in the IT sector for years, they'd had enough of corporate life - a feeling that intensified after they started their family. They knew they wanted to find a way to combine their passion for gardening with a desire to help save the planet. When a former egg ranch came on the market near their home in northern California, they jumped. "We decided to turn it into an organic nursery." Surf City Growers now grows organic bedding plants to order for a growing list of clients.

I asked Linda what she would say to other New Radicals-in-the-making about what it's been like to become Entrepreneurs. She didn't pull any punches. "It's been much harder than we expected. You have to have magnificent skills going in, because you have to wear so many hats. And you're not in a position to hire help right away, so we did everything ourselves."

What kept them going through the first few years? "Our mission. We had to believe in what we were doing or we would have gone back to our corporate jobs - which were much easier!" she laughed. They're so passionate about what they're doing that they threw their hat into the ring for Google's Project 10 to the 100th, talking about the importance of sustainable, community-based food systems, and how fresh, nutritious food can also help curb the obesity epidemic and the health crisis associated with it.

And what about their desire to spend more time with their kids? "Running our own business has given us the flexibility to be part of their lives in ways a conventional job would not have allowed." Linda said. "Plus, they see that our hard work goes beyond bringing home money to pay the bills - it's also about leaving a legacy of goodness. And that's what we're here to do as human beings - leave the world in a better place than we found it."

What's up next for Surf City Growers and My First Organics? In a word, partnerships. Working with other companies and organizations to mobilize on these issues - Linda talked about exploring opportunities with Life Lab and Slow Food Nation to help these organizations bring the learning home and get it onto practice.

When so many of us live in cities, I'm wondering how many people have grown things from seeds. What has your experience been, and what are you teaching your children? Please comment below, or email me directly at julia@wearethenewradicals.com.

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