Gardening the Community works with the local Mason Square Library in establishing raised garden beds and planting and cultivating vegetables and herbs in their plot of land. So far the fruits of our labor this season have been ripe. We have corn coming in, tomatoes, yellow summer squash, blueberries, raspberries, sunflowers, parsley, peppers, basil, and much more! Moreover, we also engage the
local youth from the Dunbar Community Center in urban agriculture education, food education, and a variety of garden activities to apply their knowledge in the garden. The program is all summer long on Wednesdays from 10:30-12 p.m. and you’d be surprised to see how much the kids learn and do in a small span of time! I’ll give you a rundown of last Wednesday’s activities.
It was a partly cloudy and breezy Wednesday, which seemed to add to the kids’ excitement as they entered the garden in a single file line with one Dunbar youth coordinator in the back and one at the front. Some of them smiled instantly at Mabelline and I upon recognizing our faces, and Ifi asked, “So what are we going to do today!” There are usually about 10-13 kids that come every Wednesday, some are what we call the “regulars” and others are new kids. Nevertheless, they always seem to be in the same age range-around 8 to 12 years old. We greet them them and lead them to the room where we usually set up and do some of our education activities. Mabelline and I shout, “Okay kids! Let’s go outside and play some games!” Before we began the new kids introduced themselves, and we played the icebreaker game “2 truths and 1 lie”. After getting better acquainted, we played Simon Says and laughs and screams filled the garden. After our game, I say, “Okay guys, we’re going to do some watering, harvesting, planting, and making parfaits today.” We heard a loud “Yaaay!” and instantly questions about whose going to pick what and accusations of who picked what last time bombarded us. To make it fair, we had the kids separate by counting themselves off into ones, twos, and threes. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t. But usually the kids who work with the food preparation usually harvest the veggies and berries. And there’s always flexibility to join the planting crew or watering crew. Since there were so many tomatoes last Wednesday, everyone got to harvest their own tomato and pose and take pictures.
Meanwhile, the food prep crew harvested some of the blueberries and one gigantic yellow summer squash that we would eat with ranch dressing. Before making the food, we announce what we’re going to make and the ingredients we use. Afterwards, two kids would wash the veggies or fruit together. And another would pass out cups and utensils to eat. And depending on the type of veggie, others could “cut” or break up the veggies into smaller pieces. For example, one Wednesday we made salsa, so there were three girls breaking up the cilantro with their hands into smaller pieces. However, we made parfait this week so everyone got a chance to customize their own parfait and add their own fruit and berries. As I was cutting up the strawberries, one of our GtC youth passed out yogurt as the youth decided on which fruits to incorporate. I asked them, “How many of you have ever eaten parfait or heard of parfait?” Tatiana responded, “I’ve never had parfait,” along with Stefanie who said the same thing. Ifi shouted, “I’ve had parfait and it’s so good!” Ifi began to show the others who to layer their parfait and how to add the granola at the top. After the planting and watering crew were finished, they came in and ate their parfaits and some summer squash. Tatiana went around encouraging some youth to try a piece of summer squash with ranch, and after they tried-they loved it! Carlos said, “I never ate squash like that before. It’s good with ranch!”
After we all cleaned up and put away the supplies, the kids thanked us and hugged us goodbye. Ifi shouted as she walked out the door, “Can’t wait till next week!”
Thanks for reading!