Boys ' Girls Club Community Garden

Project Overview

Project Type: Youth Educator
Funds awarded in 2016: $2,000.00
Projected End Date: 01/15/2018
Grant Recipient: Grow Springfield
Region: North Central
State: Illinois
Project Manager:
Alana Reynolds
Grow Springfield (Illinois Stewardship Alliance)

Annual Reports


  • Vegetables: beans, beets, broccoli, carrots, eggplant, garlic, greens (leafy), peppers, radishes (culinary), tomatoes
  • Additional Plants: herbs, ornamentals


  • Education and Training: youth education


    The goal of this project was to introduce urban youth to the concept of sustainable agriculture, something students had little to no knowledge about, through hands-on activities in a community garden.  Instead of purchasing lumber to build raised garden beds and compost bins, heat treated pallets donated by the Habitat for Humanity ReStore were repurposed into raised garden beds.  Students learned the benefits of not tilling the soil and how to sheet mulch with sustainable materials.

    Cardboard and mulch suppress grass and weeds.

    Students learned about starting seeds indoors, hardening off, transplanting, and direct seeding.  Activities and lessons taught students about heirloom varieties and genetic diversity, companion planting, spacing needs, and succession planting. Students closely observed seed and plant growth, learned common names of plants and how to identify them.  Students also learned about organic weed and pest management techniques.  Students learned how to identify when crops were mature and the proper way to harvest.  Produce from the garden was eaten raw or prepared in recipes during cooking and nutrition lessons and taken home on many occasions. 

    Students prepared foods such as chard, collards, corn, pumpkin, spinach, and tomatoes; herbs such as basil, sage, and parsley; and edible flowers such as borage, calendula, and nasturtium into recipes that they helped prepare. Some students were hesitant to try new foods, but admitted to enjoying the flavor after sampling. Many students exclaimed that they loved the new foods and begged for the recipe! Students mapped food stores in the community and found that their access to fresh produce increased once the garden was installed.

    Students harvested greens and prepared them in a salad.
    Students learn about grains, heirloom seeds, and growing a crop of Oaxacan Green Corn.
    Students prepare a recipe using Dickinson pumpkin, an heirloom variety that was grown in the community garden.
    Harvesting greens.

    At the beginning of this project the majority of students were very uncomfortable around wildlife and would become unruly during an encounter. Some students would want to harm or kill insects and worms at first sight. Now, almost all students will quietly observe the interaction between insects and plants and gently handle worms. Students now have a better understanding of organic gardening methods and many can speak about why this practice is better for the environment and the choice for many consumers.

    In addition to the outdoor growing space, the students now maintain an indoor aeroponic tower garden.  Students are learning the differences between growing with and without soil and are able to eat more fresh produce during winter.

    Through social media, newsletters, word of mouth, facility tours, and a clip on the nightly news, this project is well known and has great support from the community.  This project made way for a successful collaboration with Lincoln Land Community College and plans for the future include a continuation of this partnership.




    Project objectives:

    Increase student knowledge about sustainable agriculture and equip them with the skills to grow, harvest, and prepare a variety of foods. 

    Increase access to and consumption of fresh produce and willingness to try new foods and recipes.

    Increase student knowledge about local farms and farmers operating near them, have a better understanding of the way a food system works, and understand why sustainable agriculture is good for them, their local community, and the environment.   


    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.