When The Big Green Bus pulled into Tucson Village Farm bright and early Friday morning, kids and parents were ready to get their hands dirty like true farmers by planting crops, harvesting and learning sustainability techniques.
Running through the rows of harvested crops at the University of Arizona Cooperative Extension's farm, kids crouched low to pick tomatoes, plopping them promptly into their mouths and saving only a few to be sun-dried. Worms were sifted from the soil, introducing the group to the composting method used by the bus members.
The bus is carrying 10 Dartmouth College students on a cross-country tour to promote awareness of sustainability, environmental issues and community involvement.
Tucson offered an overcast, cool remedy to members who had traveled the previous day from Taos, N.M., and the heat in the South. Friday's potential rain didn't deter from the farm work being done.
Kids quickly teamed up with the students in the half-acre plot, carefully and attentively planting popcorn kernels along the drip-tape irrigation rows.
By the end of the row, the kids stood up proudly, shaking off their dirt-covered legs while parents stood off to the side, watching their children gain new skills.
"This lets kids experience where their food comes from and encourages them to eat healthier," said Heather Moore, who brought her two children out to the garden for the first time. Her daughter, Miranda, said she wants to be a farmer and is already growing her own "pizza farm" with tomatoes and basil.
Food doesn't come only from the grocery store, and seeing how it's planted and harvested makes kids appreciate it more, said Bridget Peyton, another mother who brought her two sons to the farm "looking for inspiration."
"It's my favorite, working with kids. Kids have so much insight to share and fresh views of the world and are not apathetic like adults are to helping save the environment," said Anna Morenz, one of the students from the bus.
When Morenz left Tucson three years ago for college, environmental community programs and places like the Tucson Village Farm UA Cooperative Extension didn't exist. Now being back, Morenz sees clearly that the people in Tucson are interested in being more self-reliant and sustainable, and are proud of it.
The Big Green Bus also opened its doors for a tour highlighting its solar panels and demonstrating the engine that runs on alternative waste fuel. People were allowed to step in and see how the bus had been converted and to learn about efficient ways to make their homes more sustainable.
Bus members said they've enjoyed the conversations with people they've had so far throughout the nation, creating shared inspiration and connectivity.
Morgan Knox, 12, a member of 4-H, said, "Farming is not a thing most kids do." She said she hopes that by working with the farm and The Big Green Bus, she learns "to make the world greener and help the world."
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If You Go
• The final Big Green Bus event will be at the farmer's market at Maynards Market today from 8 a.m. to noon.
Presentations about the importance of sustainable change in the community will be included.
Follow The Big Green Bus on the rest of its cross-country tour this summer as it heads to the Pacific Northwest and back across the United States to New Hampshire at thebiggreenbus.org; follow it on twitter @biggreenbus
Cecelia Marshall is a University of Arizona student who is an apprentice at the Star. Contact her at email@example.com or 573-4117.