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Community gardens help combat Lawrence food desert, educate youth

Data pix.

LAWRENCE, Ind. – The Lawrence Community Gardens are helping the community combat a food desert while also teaching kids about the importance of eating healthy.

"Right now, we’re trellising the tomatoes,” said high school sophomore Ana Rosales- Harms.

While most teenagers would have no idea what trellising even means, she's somewhat of an expert.

"I was here last year, we did some of this last year but mostly this year,” she said while hard at work.

It’s her second year in the "Next Generation Farmer" program at Lawrence Community Gardens. She and other kids learn the ropes of farming firsthand.

“It’s kind of like a different type of classroom because we’re still learning things but we get to be active and be outside rather than being in my house all day,” Rosales- Harms said.

"We’ve got cucumbers over here,” said Sharrona Moore while pointing to the field.  "Tomatoes, spinach cauliflower, watermelon and cantaloupe.”

Moore is the one who started the farm. But more important than what they’re growing, is why.

"This community is one of America's largest food deserts," Moore said. "When we talk about food deserts, we need to talk to people about how to survive food deserts.”

Moore noticed that healthy produce was hard to come by in the neighborhood. She figured if you couldn’t buy it at the store, then grow it, and teach youth to do the same.

“They need to know the health benefits of the produce and why they should eat it," Moore said.

“The average meal around here is the honey bun from the gas station," said high school student Kenneth Cannon. "More fruits and vegetables can make your life way healthier.”

Kids like Cannon come to the gardens five days a week for five weeks.  They learn how to grow the food and much more.

“Money management, how to grow plants, how to start your own business, entrepreneurship...” Cannon listed.

While roughly half of the produce is given to local food pantries, the other half is sold to the community.

Not only do the kids help manage the farm stands, they learn business skills and make money too.

“We teach them how to count inventory and how to count their register down and how to understand profit at the end of the day,” Moore said.

But for her, his farm isn’t about money. In fact, she isn't paid a single dime. It’s more addressing food insecurity, and giving kids the skills to solve it.

“One day I'll be blessed with a salary. Until then, I’ll keep plugging away, and hoping that every dollar I collect goes back to this farm and the youth here.”

The Lawrence Community Garden is funded by grants and donations.

Their farm stand is open 9 a.m. until 7 p.m. Thursday through Saturday.

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