The Gardeneers Planting Seeds In The Community
Behind Homan Square lies Homan Rails Farm, a beautiful garden in the center of the North Lawndale neighborhood where The Gardeneers provide the community with healthy food options and programs for youth.
The Gardeneers come to the community center and Homan Square every Wednesday and Friday from 11 a.m. - noon (Fridays only after the August 9th) and give out free produce to the community. Donations are taken but are not mandatory in order to receive free produce.
The program consists of children ranging from kindergarten to high school learning the importance of harvesting healthy and natural foods through intensive subprograms.
The program runs from March through November and during this time children ages 5-18 learn a wide range of different skills like gardening, entrepreneurship, and deeper job skills involving agriculture and growing food.
I spoke to May Tsupros, co-founder for The Gardeneers, to gain more insight about their programs and community outreach efforts.
“We actually have 20 school gardens on the North, the South and West Sides of the city. And so in North Lawndale, we have four specifically. We have three school gardens and four different programs. But our school gardens are ages all the way from kindergarten to high school,’’ Tsupros said.
The Gardeneers have partnerships with several organizations including After School Matters, which joins the organization in recruiting students into their school year program. The school year program is through After School Matters in which the selection of students vary by school. There is an application process as well as an interview process for any youth that is interested in the summer program. A stipend is given for their time.
The Gardeneers have a primary belief that they follow called “Growing School Gardens” in which they give support towards every student so that every child has the opportunity to experience “the multifaceted benefits of their school garden.”
“So, growing school gardens is kind of more of this umbrella. Because really when you're growing a school garden, it takes on a life of its own,’’ May said. “And that is a multifaceted benefit that comes along with growing a garden.”
There are many different sides of gardening and growing a garden. May as well as the other leaders of the program, strive to educate their participants on what it really means to watch a garden grow and the importance of gardening.
“The Three Pillar Curriculum,” is a curriculum that the org follows during the duration of the program: nutrition, experiencing nature and building community.
“Our goal is that the youth become more healthy, so that they experience food and healthy food and growing it and so they love it’’ she said.
The organization focuses on these pillars in hopes that the youth that are apart of the program take away something far more important than just a pastime, but a lifestyle. A stewardship for nature.
I took the time to go out to the Homan Rails Farm, where The Gardeneers visit weekly to harvest. I was able to meet Selma, the Homan Rail Farm Manager as well as get a tour of the garden by Zaliyah, who is currently apart of the Gardeneer summer program. I was also able to learn more about what fruits and vegetables they grow and what seasons are right for them to grow.
For more information on The Gardeneers visit: www.gardeneers.org.