The Prairie Patch: A True Community Garden

Planted in the community, by the community, for the community

Chantal and her six children watch as the fresh produce goes on the scale—a total of 37 pounds of sweet corn, cucumbers, tomatoes, and herbs.

Eggplants growing.“Produce is so expensive to buy. It’s really hard to eat healthy when you’re feeding a large family,” she says.

“Sometimes the food pantry has produce, but it’s hit or miss,” says the Darien resident, who has sought assistance from the Our Lady of Mt. Carmel food pantry for about five years.

Chantal’s is one of 16 local food insecure families participating in the Good Worx Sunny Patch Project, which helps families access garden fresh produce by providing a way for them to grow it themselves. Indian Prairie Public Library is helping meet this need.

This year, the library is home to 40 container gardens of vegetables, fruits, and herbs for the project. Known as the Prairie Patch, the garden is maintained by students in the library’s summer Garden Labs under the supervision of Natalie Williams, Head of Kids & Teens Services, with the produce going to Good Worx for distribution to food insecure families and local food pantries.

A sunflower.“Library staff had been dreaming of a community garden. We wanted to provide youth with an outdoor, hands-on classroom to learn natural science concepts as well as use the garden to bring community members together. We hadn’t figured out how to make it a reality until we met Cynthia and Mary Beth from Good Worx in 2016,” said Williams.

“We were working to establish more community garden patches so families could access their gardens on their own schedule,” said Cynthia McGann, Good Worx founder and executive director. “The library garden was our first ‘open access’ patch.”

Williams developed lesson plans for the seven-week Garden Lab. Students learned about photosynthesis, composting with worms, seed dissection, how to test soil for various minerals, and more. The beds at the library have provided one of several locations in Darien for food insecure families to grow their own food.

A person pruning garden plants.“Gardening with Good Worx has been an awesome experience for us. It’s exposed us to new things, and it gives us a lot more food for our budget during the summer,” said Chantal. “We definitely don’t eat as good in the winter because most of our fruits and vegetables are canned. But this year, thanks to Cynthia, we are learning to freeze more to help make it last.”

Since 2015, the Sunny Patch Project has shared more than 3,000 pounds of fresh vegetables, fruits, and herbs with local families and food pantries.

To learn more about the Prairie Patch and our partnership with Good Worx, click here.