A portion of the Soo Line Community Garden off Garfield Avenue is now dedicated to kids, featuring a bean tunnel to pick, herbs to smell, flowers to water and a compost bin to turn.
Volunteer Mary Gazca is bilingual and previously taught preschool out of her Whittier home. She started the project to offer produce to neighborhood kids.
“They’re just so ready to eat something when they can harvest something,” she said. She recently enlisted neighborhood kids to fill watering cans and sent them home with fresh-cut flowers.
“One of the little boys said this was more fun than watching TV,” she said.
Grain elevators once stood at the Soo Line garden site. Gazca said founding members recently held an anniversary celebration and recalled “renegade gardeners” climbing up and cutting chains to access the area. One garden plot is dedicated to growing food for a food shelf. Another area is a “monarch waystation.” Tammy Wong of Rainbow Chinese keeps a garden as well, and she’s fed noodles to gardeners on occasion.
The children’s garden holds an open house most Sundays from 10 a.m.-11 a.m. and 5 p.m.-6 p.m. at 2845 Garfield Ave.
“When you start an idea you don’t know if it’s going to work, but this has flourished,” Gazca said.
Gazca shares the fragrant smell of the costmary, an herb she said was historically placed between the pages of family Bibles to repel silverfish insects. Kids can stand on a pallet to pick strawberries or harvest from the “salad bowl” area.
“It gets registered in their memory for life,” she said. “That’s what is kind of important, to connect them to nature — that nice experience of eating from the earth.”