In 20XX, the House of Mercy broke ground on its very own community garden! The House of Mercy Crenshaw Community Garden was started with 6 raised beds maintained by the House of Mercy. The berries and vegetables produced by the garden were distributed to the families living in the area.
In 2014, the Crenshaw Community Garden received quite an improvement thanks to a City of God grant and Home Depot. The number of beds was expanded from 6 to 25, and water access was added in July 2014! The following year, in June 2015, even more improvements were made with the addition of a chain link fence and shed! In addition, a memorial was added to the garden, remembering friends of the House of Mercy who have passed on to the next life. If you would like to add a loved one to the memorial today, simply contact us.
In July 2018, we expanded our garden even further with the addition of a pavilion and picnic table inside the garden made possible by a City of God grant! This will enable greater use of the garden by allowing longer lessons with students in the shade. It will also provide space to place harvested produce and keep track of how productive our garden is. In addition, it will provide space for families to sit and enjoy their garden while maintaining their plots.
Today, the House of Mercy maintains 10 of the raised beds along with the blueberry bushes, fruit trees, and potatoes, and the rest of the beds are adopted by neighborhood families. This gives the families the chance to not just grow food for themselves, but to grow food native to their countries of origin, helping in their adjustment as New Americans.
The garden also serves as an educational center and provides work opportunities for the youth living in our neighborhood. Every day, high school students come and work in the garden in the mornings. They water the plants, pull any weeds, and trim the plants to keep them healthy. These youth are expected to show up on time and work the entire time they are scheduled, and are paid for their work. This gives them invaluable work experience before joining the work force.
The educational opportunities are endless in our community garden. Every day during our summer youth program, the elementary and middle school students go over to the garden and help harvest the produce from our shared beds. Our personal garden expert, Jackie Orelski, frequently comes to give short lessons on things such as good and bad bugs to look out for and how to control them, the best way to water and care for the plants, and how to know when to harvest the produce. This is also an opportunity for us to encourage healthy eating habits in our kids by providing fresh and delicious produce they helped grow.
In addition to the youth learning about the garden, we also host monthly garden gatherings with the families in our neighborhood. At these gatherings, we complete projects such as building a scarecrow. We also hold informative sessions on skills such as freezing and storing produce to prevent waste and canning techniques.
Each year we are grateful for the incredible harvest our garden provides for us and the families living in our neighborhood. Every day when the kids visit the garden as part of our summer program, we split what we harvested that day between every family and send them home with fresh produce they helped grow.
We try to grow a large variety of fruits and vegetables in our garden. This year we currently have growing: corn, radishes, onions, squash, zucchini, broccoli, lettuce, garlic, asparagus, cabbage, carrots, several varieties of beans, several varieties of tomatoes, blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, potatoes, and cucumbers! We have a planting party at the beginning of every season with the families in our neighborhood and display the new banners designed by our own youth! We'd like to thank Potratz and Johnston's Nursery for donating plants and seeds to make this variety and garden possible!