A community garden

Published 4:24 pm Monday, December 18, 2017

Preschool children from Brown Bear Daycare come to the garden early to plant a young tomato plant. The class visits the garden every Monday morning, spring to fall. Curiosity stoked, the 5-year-olds and their teachers move to the shade of a large tree to listen to a master gardener explain the role that butterflies play in gardens. The preschool class visits the community garden in Harvard, Illinois, every Monday from spring to fall to learn about garden-related topics and even to help out.

“They get to taste the vegetables, some that they have never even seen before. They get to experience what it is like to plant a garden from the planting, to the picking, to the eating,” said Sheila Henson, executive director of the day care center and a member of the Rotary Club of Harvard. “At the end of the summer, we have a parent night where the parents come and get to see the different things their children have been involved with.”

With the goals of alleviating hunger and educating the community, master gardeners from University of Illinois Extension planted the garden in 2001 on a half-acre parcel donated by the city and adjacent to the public library. Over the years, the gardeners have enlisted the support of many businesses, organizations and clubs, including the Rotary Club of Harvard, making the project a communitywide effort.

As many as 250 needy families benefit from the 10,000 pounds of vegetables that are grown and donated every year to the local food pantry. The fresh produce serves as a safety net for many families. One more way Rotarians are working to improve their communities.