The green space across Uniacke Square came to life on Saturday.
Fifty kids who signed up for this summer’s gardening program planted their seeds for the year and made it a party. Parents held a barbecue on the grass and played music while the kids dug in the garden plots in the green space on Brunswick Street beside St. Patrick’s-Alexandra school.
Youth co-ordinator Shawn Parker said the kids plant vegetables and herbs, tend to the garden all summer, then make and sell salad dressing in the fall.
“We donated the proceeds from the sales back into the programs in the community and the kids that took part in the program got an honorarium with the hope they’d spend it on school supplies.”
This is the third year of the program and Parker said it’s done wonders for inner-city kids.
“It’s given the children a chance to do something, to be a part of something,” he said.
Vandalism was a big worry until they came up with a simple but effective solution.
“We put signs up with the kids’ first names. So if kids walk by they’ll say, ‘That’s my niece’ or, ‘That’s my cousin.’ It worked,” Parker said.
“I believe in my community. Sometimes it gets a bad (reputation), but I know they’ve got a lot of good heart in here.”
Fifteen-year-old Lisa Fairn is back for another year.
“It’s such a blast,” she said.
“You get to take part in something that’s yours and meet a bunch of fun children.”
They work in the garden two or three times a week weeding and planting new seeds. Fairn said sometimes it gets so hot that she just wants to go home.
“But other than that it’s a lot of fun. There are so many hands that it doesn’t seem like a lot of work,” she said.
The kids are given a marketing class before the salad dressing is ready to sell and Fairn said she likes that aspect of the program too.
“We get to see the whole business side of things,” she said.
Besides the garden plots fenced off for the kids, there are 15 plots for families who don’t have the capacity to grow their own vegetables where they live.