Bob Markey, SFGF Certified Instructor

"You don’t have to buy fancy boxes. Make it from scratch, wood, cement blocks, whatever you have around. But don’t scrimp on the Mel’s Mix™." - Bob Markey

Mr. Bob the Gardener Transforms YMCA Kid’s Summer Camp with Square Foot Gardening 

As spring’s arrival has you sowing seeds in your raised beds or on your windowsills, we want to remind you that you can also nourish a rich crop of new gardeners. 

Take Certified Instructor Bob Markey, for instance. He brings foodgrowing magic to kids’ summer camps in NJ’s YMCA community, inspiring new generations of Square Foot Gardeners! 

Finding a Natural Gardening Niche 

Bob Markey at YMCA summer camp

Kids at the Rahway NJ YMCA make zucchini derby cars.

Bob Markey, endearingly known as “Mr. Bob the Gardener,” found his own food-growing niche many years ago after stumbling upon the “All New Square Foot Gardening” book by SFG creator Mel Bartholomew. 

Bob became so enthusiastic about the Method that he soon continued his SF gardening education and became a Certified Instructor, learning directly from Mel during an in-person workshop in Utah. 

As a Certified Instructor, Bob is dedicated to spreading the nutritional, economic, and culinary benefits of SFG to his community. He first decided to share this easy and efficient food growing method with kids at his local YMCA in Rahway, NJ via a summer camp program, which has grown to other NJ YMCAs. 

Connecting Kids with Fresh Food 

Bob’s unique strategies to teach kids SFG go beyond lessons about seed spacing and growing on the grid. 

kids selling food

Kids selling food at  “Seed to Sale” event.

In fact, he threw out that old rule about telling children not to play with their food. Instead, Bob and his campers take playing with food to a new level, in a vegetable-focused stand-in for a pinewood derby. 

Called “The Great Zucchini Race,” this competition has campers creating small race cars out of the harvests of the garden. Kids turn zucchinis into the bodies of their race cars, using bamboo skewers as axles they attach slices of squash or sweet potatoes for wheels, and decorate their race cars with veggies, toothpicks, pipe-cleaners and colorful feathers. 

That’s not the only innovation Bob uses to fan the enthusiasm of the young summer campers. 

His “Taste of the Garden” brings a local chef to the camp’s Square Foot Garden during the summer and transforms some of the harvested crops into culinary creations, inviting young palates to experience new food territory. 

In addition to acquiring a new taste for freshly grown produce, Bob the Gardener’s troop of camp goers participate in his “Seed to Sale” event by filling their wagons with freshly harvested produce from their camp garden and selling them to the community at their local farmer’s market.  

SFGs Serving a Community 

Mr. Bob the Gardener is an inspiration whose example we can follow either at home or on a larger scale.  

Growing a Square Foot Garden might be the perfect summer project for your own kids, whether at home or in your community. 

And now is the perfect time to start planning! 

Would you like to nourish the seed of this heartwarming and inspiring example in your own community? 

Donate to the Square Foot Gardening Foundation and learn more about how your donations become grants to support Community Instructors like Mr. Bob the Gardener.