When I think of Jennie Garth, her role as Kelly Taylor on “90210” springs to mind, but time marches forward, and the actress now wears the hat of wife and mother along with banner of smallscreen siren.
Garth brings her Urbana, Illinois horse-sense and experiences growing up on a self-sustaining ranch to a new project for NBC.
Enter the Garden Party, a clever vehicle for NBC.com and advertising sponsor Hidden Valley Ranch dressing to collaborate and make tasty advertorial content for the NBC iVillage and Broadband, Mobile and VOD Platforms.
The new original web series is hosted by celebrity mom Jennie Garth, and it premiered Tuesday, January 19 on iVillage (www.iVillage.com/gardenparty).
The end game is twofold: The Garden Party webseries is a new kind of commercial, doused in delicious creamy dressing that makes the important message go down easier. Eat your veggies, America!
“I saw this series as an opportunity to help inspire, educate and motivate families like mine,” said Garth. “I found out that incorporating vegetables into your families’ life is not only healthy but can be fun too.”
Garden Party will have a veggie of the month, and Garth is set to interview farmers, chefs, moms and kids to find new ways to get families to love their veggies.
Whether it is making old-fashioned Victory gardens at home to dropping by a real cooking school, to taking a tour of a family farm, Jennie’s maternal passion for healthy eating will uncover new ways to prepare the foods we should all be eating more of daily.
Jennie shares her own experience and tips with rich interactive elements including a “Cook and Tell” cookbook, a “What’s For Dinner” meal planner and an opportunity for moms to tell their veggie stories.
“We know how important it is to Moms that their children enjoy balanced meals and that vegetables play a big role in that balance,” said Priscilla Tuan, Marketing Manager for the Hidden Valley brand. “We are excited about the opportunity to help families learn more about creating a lifelong love of veggies.”
“Garden Party” can be found on iVillage (www.iVillage.com/gardenparty), the largest content-driven community for women on the web.
Jennie spoke to Monsters and Critics the other day along with some other journalists about her new, tasty endeavor:
Where did the love of the veggies begin for you?
Jennie Garth: We had a big garden since I can remember growing up. We lived way out in the country and we didn’t have a lot of money so my mom – we always had our vegetables grown in our garden and we would be out there taking care of them and growing them and gardening. So doing this Web series really sort of brought me back to my roots I guess – excuse the pun.
And I can remember when I was little walking in the corn fields in Illinois and just having fresh corn whenever you wanted it right outside your door.
How did this project come about?
Jennie Garth: How I got involved was a lot of people my age are moms. And so I’m a pretty recognizable face for a certain age woman and people that grew up watching Beverly Hills 90210, the original show. And so now a lot of us women have kids.
I did have such a great time doing Garden Party. I didn’t know that I would get to interact so much with the kids but we ended up in the middle of a field in LA and we were totally gardening and eating vegetables all day.
A big issue is how to make sure our kids are eating healthy. I struggle with it with my own kids, and I love to talk to other women about relevant issues – so they came to me and asked me to do this Web series and ended up being a really fun time.
Did you have this veggie knowledge ahead of time or did you find that you learned a lot yourself in doing this series?
Jennie Garth: I thought I knew everything there was to know about a vegetable, but after I did this I learned so much everyday just shooting this.
I think that anybody that watches it will be kind of surprised too. I got some really great tips. Everyday I would come home from shooting this Web thing and I would try a new vegetable at home. And the kids were into and so it did actually end up teaching me about new vegetables, new little tricks I could try to get my kids to eat them.
You can be a farmer now because of the Internet. There’s so much available to you on the Internet and it can be such a great educational tool. That was my sole reason for jumping on board with this and NBC and Hidden Valley Ranch putting this project together that it’s bringing information to people that they wouldn’t know about.
It was a learning experience. But I am kind of a foodie, I like food and I love to cook.
What are some of your favorite vegetables?
Jennie Garth: I love sugar snap peas and asparagus. I love every vegetable I swear to you. When I was doing this series standing out in these beautiful fields full of fresh vegetables I was going crazy because there were gorgeous vegetables all around me.
I was introduced to several vegetables that I’d never even heard of. I can’t remember the names of them right now but like Japanese turnips and crazy things. And they were so delicious straight out of the field. And we cook a lot of carrots and broccoli stuff like that at my house, kid-friendly vegetables.
Why do you think people will want to take their time to watch Garden Party?
Jennie Garth: Well I think that there are a lot of moms out there that are like me and they’re a little lost when it comes to ‘how do I get my kids to eat vegetables?’
I know they’re supposed to eat them and I know, it’s our responsibility to give these kids a balanced diet and not only just feed them but teach them how to incorporate vegetables into their own diets when they get old enough to choose what they’re eating when they’re away from you.
So I think the reason I did it was to help educate other moms and educate myself about vegetables.
Was there something about vegetables in particular you learned from doing this?
Jennie Garth: I learned about going straight to the fields. If you can in your neighborhood going to local farmer’s markets to get fresh produce and try to buy local which was something that I learned about that I didn’t really think of before.
When you think about all the shipping and how far the vegetables are traveling when they’re coming from Chile and all these places. It’s best to get the freshest, quickest, closest to you grown vegetable you can.
I also learned that, I always thought maybe putting dressing or dip or whatever was not so good for kids but this is actually a great alternative, a way to get your kids introduced to vegetables and get them to like them.
I think a great tip is to when they’re hungry and they come home from school they want a snack and just put out some vegetables that you’ve cut up and a little bit of Hidden Valley Ranch dressing and they dip it in there, they eat it up because they’re hungry and all the sudden they’re craving vegetables and dip.
What is the most dreaded veggie in your household?
Jennie Garth: I can’t really get them to eat asparagus. I try. But there’s no like, you know, Brussels sprouts horror stories happening here because I really only cook the things that I know that they’re going to eat; why waste my time cooking things that they’re going to just spit out?
What is the most despised veggie for you personally?
Jennie Garth: I wasn’t very fond of zucchini when you cook it.
When you cook zucchini. It gets a little slimy. I wasn’t really crazy about slimy zucchini.
I had to laugh when I first saw the press release for this show. I have to douse vegetables in Hidden Valley Ranch to get my kids to eat any vegetable
Jennie Garth: And you know what there’s nothing wrong with that. Don’t feel bad about it. I have to too.
Can you talk about the bigger picture of family gardening, which is a bonding experience?
Jennie Garth: Well, I haven’t had a garden for a while. We have a garden at our ranch but we don’t live there. So we live in the city and we didn’t have a garden. My husband’s father came in and helped us plant a garden in our front yard. I said I don’t care, I want a garden. Rip up the grass let’s get it going. And we made it happen.
And over a weekend we put in this really great little garden. And it’s just fun and I can be cooking and I say oh girls go get me a cucumber or go get me some tomatoes and they love going out there and picking it and having that connection with what they’re actually eating.
As far as like what it means to our family I think any tradition you can pass along to your children that you had when you were younger are priceless.
This is Peter’s (Facinelli) father correct?
Jennie Garth: This is, yeah.
And he’s Italian, and that’s mandatory isn’t it to have fresh tomatoes all the time?
Jennie Garth: He can grow tomatoes like on a gutter vine, I don’t know, this guy is – he can do anything with vegetables – growing things.
Is NBC going to be doing more Trojan-horse type advertising with a good message? Are you going to be involved in more sort of Web series where the advertisers are worked into a storyline that’s also educational?
Jennie Garth: I think it’s a great medium. I’m very proud to be a part of this. I’ve never done something like this, like an education sort of Web series.
But I loved it. I love teaching people and I love talking to other women about what I know and what they know and sharing information. So I think this is a great place to do that. So I hope they do, I don’t really know about their future plans so.
Why is it important for children to learn where their food comes from or even how to grow their own?
Jennie Garth: I think it gives them a sense of sort of investment, they care about what, when you teach your kids instead of just sort of preaching to them, when you teach them about why something is good for them they want to do the right thing. Kids have this inherent quality to want boundaries and they want to do the right thing.
So when they know how good for them eating fresh vegetables from the garden is instead of packaged and processed foods, they want to take care of themselves and they want to be healthy and strong and be able to run and play.
So it’s vital information to children to parents to teach their kids that what they’re eating and how it’s affecting their body and their performance at school.
I’m sure they get a kick out of going to the garden and being able to pick something right out of the ground and wash it off and eat it, there’s something so cool about that and especially when it tastes good.
So what’s your favorite way to prepare broccoli?
Jennie Garth: I have recently stopped using my microwave for health purposes. Like I was just realizing oh my gosh I’m microwaving everything. So one day I literally put tape across the microwave saying don’t use me. And so I used to just like nuke it and put some cheese on it.
I haven’t done it yet since then but I think I will just put it in the toaster oven in some water. I just cook I a little bit because the kids like to have that crunch, you know, instead of all soggy and mushy and disgusting. So don’t overcook it.
And then I like to sprinkle or lay some like singles – like cheese slices over it and just put the lid back on it and let the cheese sort of melt onto the broccoli. My kids love it. I’ll eat anything with cheese or dip on it.
So you have a very busy life with your career and your husband three beautiful daughters so how do you keep it all balanced?
Jennie Garth: I am just like any other person out there. I make lists and I try to, you know, accomplish things everyday. I could lay in bed and take the kids to school and then go back to bed but I don’t, I go and exercise and I jut try to keep the ball rolling. You’ve got to keep it going and keep accomplishing things with your time.
I think also just prioritizing and really sort of planning out your work commitments and your family time, carving out dinner for family every night.
I do spend a lot of time thinking about what I’m going to feed them too, as mom I think about that a lot and I prepare their meals everyday. So it’s about balance and trying to keep it all together.
What was your favorite part of filming the show?
Jennie Garth: I wasn’t sure that I was going to have as much as I ended up having. Just being out in the fields, we were out at a local farm here and being out there with the real farmers and with the kid and we got to spray off all the fruits and pick them and chop them and eat them right out there on the farm; it was a lot of fun.
We did a neighborhood veggie party one episode. And just chatting with like this woman – we called her grandma because she was everybody’s grandma.
Just hearing everybody’s stories and how they like to eat their vegetables and what it means to them to feed their kids and their families fresh healthy foods.
I’m kind of one of those women that likes to sit and gab with other women and share stories. So I think that was a lot of fun for me.
Have you tried to introduce any new veggies to your family, and how did that go over?
Jennie Garth: I did, I came home – I had bushels of fresh vegetables after we visited that farm. And we tried everything from the eggplant which wasn’t a big hit, I’m not going to lie because it got a little slimy. And I gave them jicama which they dipped in ranch dressing and they loved it which they’d never had.
And sugar snap peas which was something that they didn’t know about and they liked those a lot because they’re kind of sweet and crunchy.
Where should people go for fresh produce?
Jennie Garth: I would definitely check your community, search for farmer’s markets. So many areas are having these farmer’s market or maybe there’s like a little farm stand in your town – I have that up in a town that I visit – where they just sell vegetables on the roadside, you know, that they’ve picked out of their garden.
That’s something you can do if you live in a really rural area. I would say – and my personal choice if I can’t get fresh I usually go to frozen next and my last resort would be canned.
I don’t love canned vegetables. And I don’t feel like I’m eating anything when I’m eating them so that would be my preference. And they’re mushy, it’s weird.
Does Peter enjoy vegetables as much as you do? And do you have to do any tricks to get him to eat them?
Jennie Garth: You know, he is a boy. I honestly have to feed him like I would a child because if it were up to him – he’s from New York – he would be eating pizza at every meal and there’s not a vegetable in that pizza.
So he thinks that the tomato sauce is his vegetable. And also you have to think about the color like red – if you can mix a red sauce with it you can totally hide it and they’ll never know, you can put tons of spinach and broccoli – if you steam it and puree it – into meatloaf or turkey meatloaf.
I consider him just like one of the kids when I’m feeding him. I make a balanced meal and they eat it, When I serve a protein and a vegetable and a carbohydrate they eat it, they eat what I’ve prepared for them because I think that they love sitting down to dinners as a family. So he’s just like another little boy though.
Do you grow everything organic?
Jennie Garth: I used to go to Costco and buy the fruits and vegetables there and then I realized these are not organic in any way shape or form and why are…they so perfect looking like they’re all like giant and perfect.
It really started me thinking about the organic choices that I needed to start making. And I do make every effort to buy organic now. it costs more but sometimes you just have to bite the bullet and do it especially, I mean, there are lots of studies out there that will tell you if you search around on the Internet…
I just read an article, I can’t remember what magazine it was. But it was talking about there’s like major offenders of fruits and vegetables that really cling onto the preservatives and that stuff that they spray on it.
I try to buy the ones that are not going to suck up the preservatives as much. I keep that in my mind when I’m shopping. But when I’m buying food like strawberries and stuff I definitely go organic.
I try to keep everything as organic and pure as I can. There’s just so many toxic chemicals out there in our food and in our creams and lotions…so I really try to stay organic with my fruits and vegetables and definitely eat like a very vivid color diet, it’s really important to your overall health so your internal organs and your skin, you know, your beauty.
Where did you shoot this series?
Jennie Garth: We stayed local. We went to Santa Barbara which had great weather and a lot of beautiful vegetable farms up there. And we went to Underwood Farms which is local here about 30 minutes out of town. All within a two hour radius of LA.
Do you miss farm life enough that you would want to move back to your ranch permanently and get out of the city?
Jennie Garth: That’s something that Peter and I talk about a lot. And it’s actually what – where my interest lies. I just have to get my city boy on board with that.
Has having children changed the way you look at nutrition or were you always a sensible eater?
Jennie Garth: I took the best care of myself when I was pregnant, and when I was thinking about feeding someone else. So now I know it’s my sole responsibility to, feed these kids balanced food because if I just let them eat what they want they would just, they wouldn’t be very healthy let’s put it that way.
I take it really seriously because I want them to have the best performance at school that they can. I want them to be able to run and do whatever they want to do. And I know what a direct impact foods and sugars and all the simple carbs out there and things that are available to them. I know how bad that stuff is for them.
I am super proactive about our meals and what I cook and what they eat definitely.
What about the fast food nation epidemic, what can parents do?
Jennie Garth: Oh my gosh because we’re so busy. I mean, everybody’s running a million miles an hour. And I get it but it just takes a little bit of thinking ahead, you know, as a parent, as a mom you’ve got to think ahead to stock your cabinets with things that you know that they’re going to want and they’re going to eat.
And preparing foods, you walk through the store and it’s just all prepackaged convenience foods now. And you think oh I could just buy this and be done with it but if you think about it it’s so much better for you to go home and cook it from scratch actually make that meal instead of just open a package.
And they get so many more nutrients. I understand moms are busy, moms work, moms have a lot going on but you just have to sort of plan it into your day how you’re going to better feed your kids.
And you just start feeding them a more balanced healthy diet, like I said when I make a meal for my family I set it down and we eat it; there’s no griping about it, you know, and I teach them to be thankful for the food that they have and, you know, it’s just about taking that time and that sort of persistence as a parent.