Gardening with Gabby: Benefiting the Community

September 21st, 2016 10:10 AM

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By Dawn Ferencak

Sales Representative

Hey, this is Gabby! This week I would like to speak about the community pop-up market we had a few weeks ago. We sold some items out of the garden and ABC 7 news came to ask us about the garden. They put our garden on TV!

People came to buy our items we put it in the bags for them. People told us, when they see the garden it makes them feel good about our neighborhood. They think of peace when they see the garden, which is good because there is a lot of violence in Chicago.


NOTE: Gabby and her fellow students were aided in the garden by Dominique Davis, Mercy Housing Lakefront's resident services manager. Dominique writes more about her experiences below.

As my first year as the resident services manager, overseeing the task of garden manager was a lot to undertake. As a way to increase a holistic approach to gardening, we incorporated a financial literacy component of Junior Achievements to the curriculum. The thought was for this to serve as a learning tool for budgeting and entrepreneurship leadership. The program incorporated money worth, balancing, building a business and understanding consumer behavior.

In addition to learning money basics, we partnered with KitchFix, a local organic food delivery service, to buy produce from our garden. Students set the prices, learned how to weigh produce from harvest, and began to learn how to determine return on investments. These skills are encouraging students to use smart money habits to determine the cost value of products and make more informed consumer purchasing choices.

By encouraging early learning of consumer purchasing power, students can become more empowered to invest in community projects where their hard work and labor skills can be a profitable and a positive alternative to a community with scarce economic stability and a high crime and recidivism.

Each student had the opportunity to earn a small stipend for their participation in the summer program. Students were evaluated on attendance, participation, team work, classroom instruction, punctuality, and behavior. These are some of the skills that encourage a strong work ethic and positive reinforcement to earning wages. Students had the opportunity to use their stipends for their own reward for hard and tiring work this summer.

During the last week of the summer program we hosted a pop up community farmer's youth market. Students were given the opportunity to sell produce to community members as well as speak about their experience in the garden and the summer program as a safe haven and opportunity to work and develop skills as an alternative to participating in activities that may be less productive.

The garden has a lot of work that can still be done to help benefit the community and help students raise awareness within the community about healthy eating, labor skills and the positive effects on mental health.

What may seem as a daunting and unrewarding task in the present has the potential to transform attitudes by enabling students to learn skills that connect larger concepts of community engagement, consumer behavior, investments and public speaking and advocacy. Hopefully each year we will hear the views and experiences of a different student participating in the garden and have the opportunity to expand our learning and skill sets toward urban agriculture and farming.

Dominique Davis

Email: Twitter: @Dawn_Ferencak

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