by: Shannon Kyler, North Programs Manager
I first discovered the community garden at City Sprouts in my early 20’s. Someone invited me to come drink wine and eat food around a fire (hard to resist)—-I remember pulling up and seeing the glow of a fire past the big bushes and wildflowers—hearing laughter and voices rising up past the wild garden. I wondered how I had never been to this magical place before.
A few years later I came to a beekeeping workshop that was being held in the house/education center that was in the middle of a renovation. The kitchen wall was half torn down, a mismatch of lawn chairs filled the space and the vibe was on the comfy side of chaotic. I learned a little something about bees but mostly was hungry for more opportunities to connect with the space.
A few years after that I regularly helped unload boxes of produce into the house as Food Not Bombs was using the kitchen space to cook their meals. I had moved into the neighborhood and a couple of my roommates were working for City Sprouts helping break ground on the Decatur Street Farm. My free choir group was using the first floor as a weekly practice spot. A food co-op was using it as their distribution space. The energy was electric.
In 2014 and 2015 I signed up to be a community gardener. I don’t really remember much besides coming up at odd times to avoid anyone seeing me weeding my very unkempt garden bed. Those were the summers of having a toddler and then a toddler AND a newborn. Getting out of my house and walking the 4 blocks to the garden was critical to my mental health. I attended every class and community event.
In 2016 City Sprouts was hiring for a part time garden manager—-I jumped at the opportunity and was hired immediately (in truth I think I may have been the only one who applied). I was desperate to engage with some adults and to make some money. The position quickly grew from just the garden to managing volunteers, teaching classes, and taking care of the chickens and bees.
Fast forward to 2022 and I am now in my 7th growing season at City Sprouts. I have grown and thrived almost as much as we have as an organization. The rhythm of the garden brings me both comfort and delight every year as it is reborn, flourishes, and is laid to rest no matter what else is happening in the world. The challenges are abundant, but the process of finding the solutions is part of the fun. I have gotten to know the plants, trees, creatures, neighbors, and volunteer groups that return year after year—and I have had the pleasure of working with a talented and dedicated staff that have become my friends. I get to help people discover the joy in connecting to our food and the urban ecosystem on a daily basis. My kids get to see me doing work that I love and are a welcome part of it. City Sprouts is my job, but it is more importantly my community.
I think that is a solid amount of waxing poetic, and probably more than our Communications Manager, Emily, expected when she asked me to write some garden updates for the blog post this month. This place just really gets me going!!
Highlights this year so far:
We are trying out a communal method in the garden for the first time. Veteran community gardeners, neighbors, and volunteers have enthusiastically worked together to plant, weed, water, and spend time welcoming neighbors into the garden. It has been such a joy to see everyone take ownership over the space and tend it so lovingly
Our geodesic greenhouse is alive with herbs, figs, a bay tree, ginger, composting worms, and the gentle flow of the pond waterfall. Everyone is amazed by the engineering of the dome and I am so eager to continue to build it out and fill it with beautiful plants that we can enjoy year round
Our community bulletin board at the garden entrance will be completed at the end of July by Eagle Scout Ryan Dang and his dad, Scott. It will be a space to share community events, explain how the garden works, and keeps folks updated on all things City Sprouts
This is the last season for the raised beds that were built in 2004. Our grant from the EPA will allow us to build all new beds that are more accessible, long lasting, and help us to feed and educate more members of our community. Stay tuned!!
The neighborhood kids are really stealing the show this year! I feel so lucky to have gotten to know these really cool kids, that are the biggest advocates of our garden. They are always eager to help me weed and water, give new visitors personal tours, hype me up to whoever will listen, and drop by for a snack, bandaid, or to love on the chickens. Definitely some future interns!!
Please reach out if you want to tour the garden, volunteer, chat about chickens, etc. We have so much goodness on the horizon and we couldn’t do it without all of your support and engagement! That’s all folks!!!