Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Growing for Futures with the National Garden Bureau


    

    
  I was in Chicago last month for the Independent Garden Center trade show. Don’t tell my bosses but I skipped out on the last day of the show to go and see a garden that my friend Diane Blazek was so excited about. Diane is the executive director of the National Garden Bureau and they have chosen the Growing Solutions Farm in Chicago as a beneficiary of its annual fundraising effort. Growing Solutions Farm is a vocational program of the Julie + Michael Tracy Family Foundation/Urban Autism Solutions.



The one-acre garden was beautiful, immaculately kept and cared for. It produces hundreds of pounds of food in what would otherwise be an urban food desert.  The young adults with autism work together with an urban farmer, vocational coach, teachers, volunteers and agency staff to develop skills that can lead to career opportunities in the agriculture, horticulture, food processing and distribution industries. The kids not only plant and care for the garden, they are also learning how to cook and eat fresh fruit and vegetables. They will also be involved in selling the produce in farmer’s market style. This kind of interaction is a critical step in their development. I met the urban farmer, a determined and caring woman with more than enough credentials to run the project. I also met the teachers and was shown how their studies were set up; they include everything from planting to business etiquette; things you and I would probably take for granted. For instance, how to have a break time at work, broken down in steps they can follow. Like, how do you know when break is over? To say I was impressed with the project would be a giant understatement.


The best part of the day was meeting all of the kids. We arrived at snack time and they were gobbling up organic salads with tomatoes from their garden. Many gave me their hand and one young man wrote me a two-page letter about the garden and Walt Disney. We posed for a picture and I had to hug Diane for taking so much time out of her busy day to bring me there.


These kids are proud of their garden and like every single one of us, would like to have a meaningful job. The scope of this project exceeded my expectations by a mile and I believe it will truly prepare them to have an even more meaningful future. Growing for Futures is the perfect name for this project. If you can donate any amount – please, please do.


In an innovative twist, each donor contribution will translate into a tangible item needed by the garden. For example, a $10 donation will purchase a watering nozzle; a $25 donation will buy 50-feet of watering hose and so on. The NGB also hopes to garner another $20,000 through donated supplies from horticulture businesses.

Bringing Life to Your Garden!

Have fun out there, Peggy Anne

For more information from the National Garden Bureau please contact
Jon Kaplan at: 312-342-4304, or jkaplan@greenmarkpr.com 

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