We’re proud to announce Andrea Hansen as The Grand Prize Winner of the 2013 Come Alive Outside Conversation Contest!  Andrea works in the Green Industry for the Brickman Group and submitted a conversation that she had with her parents talking about some of their experiences outdoors when they were growing up.   It’s so inspiring to see how the love of nature is passed from one generation to the next!  Her conversation and the stories her parents shared with her are printed below in their entirety.

We were thrilled with all of the submissions we received and the evidence that, although general trends suggest that we are all spending more time inside in front of our TV and computer screens, the love of the outdoors is still alive and well!

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One of our youngest participants, a 3rdGrade student who lives in Central Tennessee, was named a Second Prize Winner for the conversation that she had with her parents.  Lily heard about the contest from her teacher and took the chance to sit down with her parents and talk about why they all love exploring in the great outdoors.  When talking with her parents Lily said why she likes to Come Alive Outside, “I like being outdoors so much because indoors you just don’t have the room. You could be in the biggest room in the world and it still isn’t as big as the outdoors.”

To read Lily’s entire conversation with her parents about the joys of getting your feet muddy and the importance their family places on exploring the outdoors, click here!

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Our other Second Prize Winner is Dr. Reese Nelson, Professor of Horticulture at Brigham Young University.  A teaching assistant talked with Professor Nelson about his experience as a boy playing made-up games with his friends and taking day-trip adventures on his own through the poplar trees of his hometown.  His childhood adventures have shaped the trajectory of his life in a very fundamental way.  As he says it, “Most of my time is spent teaching the good word of horticulture to others, but I also like to garden and landscape. And I have also discovered the human connection with plants and the restorative affect that it has on people. And I think the scholarly literature bears that out as well. “  To read Prof. Nelson’s childhood stories and how he sees those experiences shaping his career, click here!

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Enjoy Andrea and her parents’ conversation below about trying to ride cows, lessons learned in the garden and fighting skunks in the middle of the night!  As you read, hopefully your mind will wander back to some of your own childhood memories and you’ll feel a bit of that warm glow that we all knew when we were young and playing in the sun.


(Both of my parents share a love of nature and the outdoors. They often share stories with me from their childhoods, and how this love has impacted the upbringing of their children.  They have instilled in me a desire to be outside and interact lovingly and respectfully with nature.

As a child my mom grew up in Fairfield, CA on a farm before most of that area had been developed.  She would spend a great deal of her time outdoors exploring and trying to keep up with her older brothers.  As you can imagine, being the youngest she was the prime target for many practical jokes.  She shared one such experience with me.  My mom seemed to have an odd fascination with the cows raised on the family farm.  Her older brothers, Fred and Bob, used this to their advantage when she expressed her desire to have a horse.)

Andrea: Mom, when you were younger, what’s one of the memories you have of being outside?  How did they exactly get you on the cow again?

Mom: They helped me up on the cow.  I was small, so I couldn’t climb up there by myself.  I kept telling my brother that I wanted a horse, but we didn’t have any horses.  Our neighbors had horses, but we didn’t.  So my brother said, ‘What do you need a horse for?  We’ve got cows you can ride!’

I said, ‘You can’t ride a cow!’

Andrea: How old were you?

Mom:  I think I was about six.  Anyways, my brothers helped me up on the cow and as soon as I got on the cow, it kicked me off!  The small cows buck.  He kicked his back legs up and I went flying off.  Then somehow he convinced me that I needed to get back up there.  He goes, ‘Well, you’ve gotta get back up there, you can’t give up!’

So I got back up there and the same thing happened.  It hurt when I hit the ground!  I don’t know how but they convinced me to get back up there a third time, and boy were they laughing!  They thought it was so funny!  After the third time I thought to myself: “No this is not funny.  I’m not going to learn how to ride this cow they’re just making sport with me.”  I was so mad!

Andrea: So how do you think your childhood experiences with the outdoors have shaped and influenced your life?

Mom:  They enriched it, because there’s freedom in being outdoors, and there’s a certain feeling about being out in the fresh air and sunshine…being amongst the plants, trees and animals.  Also, I love getting to be around animals and having them respond.  You give love to them and then they give love back to you.

Andrea: It’s kind of refreshing I think as well.  Interacting with nature helps you learn life lessons too.

Mom:  Yes it does, you can plant something and then you watch it grow when you water it and take care of it.  You learn that you have to be consistent, because if you don’t water it then it’s not going to live.

(As a little girl, I would raise animals and tend gardens with my parents. In particular, I would work side by side with my Dad to plant, water and harvest the vegetables. My Dad, who grew up in Napa, CA, had a desire to work with his hands, which was developed from the time he was young.)

Andrea: How did you learn to garden?

Dad:  My grandfather taught me at a young age.  We always had a good size garden, but didn’t own a rototiller.  Everything was done with a shovel and a spade.  We had a lot of digging!  We were just like human gophers!

Andrea: What kind of lessons did you learn from gardening?

Dad:  Well, my Grandfather always told me that if you want to have a good garden with a lot of fruit, then the plant needs to have deep roots.  You can’t have fruit without roots.

Also, a garden requires a lot of hard work: digging, fertilizing, pruning, watering, weeding and tender care.  If you nourish it properly then the garden will produce and be plentiful.  It’s the same thing in our lives in how we progress.  We have to nourish ourselves in every way that we can and prevent the elements that would harm us from entering.

When you think about it, no matter where we live we have the responsibility to bloom and grow.  It’s that way in our lives, personally and individually, we need to bloom and grow regardless of what city or town we live in, what occupation we have, or what trial comes upon us.  So there’s an analogy in raising gardens to how we grow and succeed.

Mom: There was one time that I remember when you were young.  I was looking for eggs to cook for breakfast, and noticed that our supply of eggs in the refrigerator was down and wondered, “How can this be?  It’s spring! The chickens should be laying a lot of eggs.”

(I was the one who was supposed to be collecting the eggs.  As I went out to collect the eggs in the hen house, I noticed one of the hens brooding.  So I devised a secret plan to stop collecting the eggs and allow this Mama hen to hatch out several baby chicks, images of cute little fuzzy chicks filling my vivid imagination.)

Mom: I approached you and said “Andrea, what’s going on?  How come we don’t have any eggs in our refrigerator?”

You looked at me really funny with those eyes of yours.  I knew something was up and I said, “Okay Andrea, what’s going on?”

Andrea: I said, “Don’t tell Dad!”

Mom: Then I said, “You mean you haven’t been gathering the eggs?” and you said, “Mom the chickens are going to have all of these baby chicks!”

Andrea: I knew they were coming.

Mom: Yeah you did, and it wasn’t that long before we had all of these adorable baby chicks.  They were so cute!  I thought, “Oh leave it to Andrea.”

( I could hear my Dad laughing in the background. These weren’t just ordinary chickens! I loved them and would watch over them carefully. My Dad told the following story about my love and desire to protect my feathery friends.) 

Dad: I remember the time that the skunk came in the night, and the chickens were all making noise.  I woke up to you squawking!

Andrea: Yeah, I was like “Dad!  Dad! Something is after the chickens!”

Dad: I could hear them fussing out there, so I shined a flashlight.  Sure enough there was a skunk out there trying to get the chickens.  So I went down to the basement and tried to load the gun.  I couldn’t get it to work right, but I finally got it loaded.

Andrea: It seemed like an hour later!

Dad: It seemed like forever because the chickens were squawking!

(My dad, imitating the chickens) “Bak! Bak!”

Andrea: Yeah they were being attacked!

Dad: Yeah they were, but we couldn’t go out and chase the skunk off or else he’d spray us.  You had to keep your distance from them, and there were two of them!  Not just one.

Andrea: Yeah I think I was watching from inside at the window.

Dad: One was in the cage, and one was outside of it.  I remember getting the gun, aiming, shooting and then missing.  I shot and hit the feeder and blew a hole in it!  Then I finally shot and hit one of the skunks!  When that happened the other skunk took off.  It was probably 1 a.m. or 2 a.m. so I had to get the shovel out and bury the skunk (that had been shot).

Andrea: And the chicken, I think it got two chickens right?

Dad: Yeah, it was two chickens (one was named Socrates after the great philosopher).  He would’ve killed them all if we didn’t get out there.  I was out there digging and the neighbor came out in the night with his robe on, and he said “Hey! What’s that shooting going on over there?”

I said, “Well, I’m doing some burying.” The neighbor had no idea what I was burying.

Andrea: Didn’t you say? “Oh just a little family argument, but it’s all taken care of now!?”

Dad:  “We settled it all!  Now I’ve got to bury the deal!”

Andrea: Then he went back inside?

Dad: He went back inside!  I thought he was going to call the police and everything, but he didn’t.  It was pretty funny at the time, but you were upset about the chickens.

Andrea: Thanks for sharing Dad and Mom. I love these stories. Nothing like the great outdoors!

(My parents’ childhood interactions with nature have significantly impacted my life, as well as their own lives.  Their love for the outdoors has been reciprocated by each of my siblings as we enjoy spending time outside together.  This has led to me pursuing a career where I can create outdoor spaces for others to enjoy.  I hope that these places will inspire others to ‘Come Alive Outside’ as they feel the warmth of the sun on a beautiful spring day and breath in the crisp fresh air that surrounds them.)