Amazing how a little Community Garden can be used as a classroom and a playground! The garden in Garfield NJ has done more than produce beautiful vegetables and herbs. As we expected, we saw harvests of tomatoes, eggplant, pepper, squash, oregano, basil, lavender, mint, strawberries and some very TALL sunflowers; however, the garden has had many visitors. Our largest component comes from the children who attend summer camp at the Y who help water and harvest. The garden has also seen local community members participate in a program called, “The Gardner Is In,” taught by a Master Gardner who provides lessons on growing, gardening, weather, and nutrition. Then, there is the Food For Thought Healthy Living Volunteer Garden Program under the direction of Denise Panglignan for those with a greater interest in not only learning how to grow and harvest, but also studying the garden and quantifying results. A wonderful visit from a Hackensack University Medical Center Nursing Class took place with a discussion on the 6 dimensions of health and how a garden can improve their overall health. Students then learned how to compost, and harvest. A student provided a recipe demo and participants had the opportunity to eat right from the garden.
Our art camp even made a visit to the garden and were tasked to decorate the garden as part of an art project. Our youngsters decorated rocks and were treated to a garden lesson when they delivered their finished products to the garden.
The opportunity to increase health, knowledge, fun, and socialization is present, and the garden has proven how it can be used as such a vital tool to help the Y build the foundation of community!