Children in the Garden

Reader Contribution by Crystal Stevens
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Allowing children the space to discover the beauty and wonder of plants through tending to their own garden builds character, teaches responsibility, gives insight into the beauty of nature and fosters their connection with where food comes from. The Children’s Discovery Garden at La Vista Park in Godfrey, IL is an excellent model for education and outreach through community gardening and is a beautiful example of how individuals from all walks of life living in the same community can come together and bring a vision to fruition with love and support.

According to the Community Cultivators, the first meetings began between the interested community members and the Godfrey Parks District in 2001. In 2002 the board was formed and non-profit status was awarded and in October, the first group of children visited the Garden. In 2003 the official ribbon cutting ceremony was held on Earth Day. In 2003, the garden obtained funding for its first paid employee. Families pay a small fee each year for a specified plot of land to grow their own vegetable garden. Seeds and plants are donated by various organizations each year. The Discovery Garden at La Vista Park is a project by The Community Cultivators, comprised of an amazing group of earth stewards who each play an integral role in the Discovery Gardens success and continued existence year after year.

The project goal is to “provide a gathering place for the children and their families to learn about the importance of organic gardening. They hope to promote the children’s connection with the earth and the cycle of gardening. They also hope that people visiting the garden will have an increased appreciation of nature and how food is grown. The Discovery Garden is a place where the community and its children can come to participate in hands-on, creative outdoor activities while learning about food, community, volunteerism, and organic gardening.”

Currently, Jaime Hines is the farmer at The Children’s Discovery Garden. Jaime instructs families on how to use sustainable practices to grow their own productive vegetable gardens. She teaches workshops on square foot and lasagna gardening, gives one on one instruction to families on a regular basis, and is always doing nature crafts with kids and organizing successful fundraisers for the garden. She also co-teaches Earthworms, a children’s program which teaches them about gardening, science, plant identification and survival skills. Jaime is a selfless woman who has been through a long battle with cancer. Even despite her less than desirable prognosis, Jaime has shined and inspired others in ways that seem unimaginable by someone experiencing such turmoil mentally and physically in their own life. Her uphill battle with cancer has had many triumphs and tribulations but miraculously, she has remained strong, radiant, loving and vibrant during her illness and has continued to inspire hundreds of children through her commitment and dedication to growing food for families. Knowing that people like Farmer Jaime walk this Earth gives me hope for the future of humanity and of the environment. She is innately passionate about teaching children and families how to be self sufficient and how to make their own lives more wholesome through gardening. 

Her partner, Chris is a walking encyclopedia of plant knowledge. His knowledge of geography, ecology, microbiology and the symbiotic relationships between them is a vital aspect of education and preservation. Jaime and Chris are yet another power couple who offer their talents, insight and wisdom to everyone who crosses their path. Their daughter Amelia can identify dozens of wild edibles and medicinal herbs. They have given her the tools necessary for self sufficiency. They have a small homestead with goats, chickens, dogs, cats, and a number of other animal friends. Chris rescues items on their way to the landfill and repurposes them to be useful. They have been working to preserve and protect the earth for many years.

Witnessing amazing individuals joining forces to do amazing things is so inspiring. Knowing that one gardening workshop could change the course of a child’s life and deepen his or her connection to the world around them is profound. Seeing children’s eyes light up when finding their very first sun ripened strawberry and picking it right from the plant brings about a wave of happiness that cannot be explained in words. People like Farmer Jaime make this world a better place.

Check out this video on The Community Cultivators.

Check out The Children’s Discovery Gardenon Facebook.