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June 29, 2010 Published in 2010 In Review, EcoNews, Top Stories

Garden Brings New Life to Neighborhood

By Raymond Williams
alexandrianews.org

Children learn about gardening and organic produce at the Ruby Tucker Center. (Photo: Gaynelle Diaz)

At the Ruby Tucker Family Center, children, adults and senior citizens are doing their part to help the neighborhood. The vegetable community garden project is getting people involved.

The Alexandria Redevelopment and Housing Authority, in cooperation with the Northern Virginia Health Foundation and the Partnership for a Healthier Alexandria, is introducing public housing residents to organic produce. There are 36 garden plots for adults and one for the children at Tancil Court, the “I Can Shine” youth garden. The kick-off was on April 16 at the Ladrey High Rise Community Room. Many residents showed their support by coming to the event. Mayor Bill Euille and ARHA CEO Roy Priest were speakers at the celebration.

Jason Ellis is the Program Coordinator and Director for the Ruby Tucker Family Center. Ellis believes this program will help the residents financially and physically. Participants can eventually eat the vegetables they grow. Neighborhood Restaurant Group Chef Will Artley will come once for children and once for adults to teach them how to incorporate more vegetables into their diet. The participants are also creating a garden curriculum and activities.

The garden has a lot of produce. “You name it, they grow it,” said Ellis. The gardeners grow watermelons, strawberries, onions, collard greens, jalapeño peppers and other produce. “They love watering, they love weeding,” said Ellis. He credits the program with keeping the children active. “It keeps them actively involved and engaged. The program is family oriented and very diverse,” he said.

Niya Lacks is one of the young gardeners. “I like it,” said Lacks. “I like watermelons.” Lacks also learned some of the basics of gardening. “I learned that weeds, they choke the plants and kill them,” she said.

Savannah Brooks is another gardener. “I think it’s beautiful,” she said. “My garden makes it beautiful.” Brooks believes this is a good activity. “I can garden anytime I want to,” she said.

Children at the Ruby Tucker Center plant and tend to their own garden. (Photo: Gaynelle Diaz)

Marilyn Avery is the Recreation Leader at the center. “I think [the garden] is a great idea,” said Avery. She thinks the children can learn a lesson by being involved in the program. “I think they will take care of their community better,” she said.

Gaynelle Diaz is the Program Assistant. She also believes the program is helpful. “I hope it will give them a better appreciation of where they came from,” said Diaz.

The community garden has been popular in public housing. With new activities and events being planned, it seems that the initiative will not die.