As Sharrona Moore helped set up a garden stand July 2 at Eskenazi Health Center Grassy Creek on the far east side, she quizzed her younger workers about the prices of the various produce they would sell. Green beans are $2 per half pound; watermelons are $7. Moore had prices memorized. Kenneth Cannon and Alani Darby took notes.
They were setting up the first garden stand of the season for Lawrence Community Gardens, where Moore is the garden manager and Cannon and Darby work weekday mornings. The garden stand will be at Eskenazi Health Center Grassy Creek from 10-11 a.m. every Tuesday and features food including green peppers, garlic, corn and even chicken wings.
The leaders, workers and volunteers at Lawrence Community Garden want to help the area overcome food access issues. A 2018 study from The Polis Center at IUPUI estimated that 200,000 Indianapolis residents live in a food desert, which is an area that has high poverty and limited food access. The Polis Center’s count is about double the official number from the United States Department of Agriculture, in part because the USDA’s data isn’t updated past 2015. The closing of Marsh grocery stores, for example, isn’t accounted for.
- Related: Tales from a food desert
Moore said one of the advantages of the garden stand is that they can take SNAP and WIC, which makes their food more accessible to people who need it. Eskenazi Health Center Grassy Creek has a WIC center, so low- to moderate-income pregnant women could get their vouchers and then buy fresh and healthy food in the parking lot on their way out.
Lawrence Community Gardens, where children ages 12 to 15 can work, could also be fueling a new generation of community leaders who will try to tackle issues such as food access and poverty. Darby, wearing her “Next Generation Farmers” shirt, said growing and selling food is something she could see herself doing for a living. Darby, 12, heard about the garden’s program from her dad and decided she wanted to do it.
“It’s exciting because people are helping out and giving money back for youth to learn how to sell produce,” she said.
Cannon, 14, said he hadn’t considered the possibility of earning money by growing and selling food before he started with the program in 2018. He said he wants to become an entrepreneur.
Darby and Cannon, along with other students out of school for the summer, work at Lawrence Community Gardens 7 a.m. to noon Monday through Friday. They learn gardening basics and how to make money selling the food they grow, all while earning a weekly stipend of $50. There’s also a garden stand open at the garden.
This is one of the things that gets Moore excited about the garden. She knows children growing up in urban neighborhoods don’t often think about this line of work. But with an 11-cent pack of watermelon seeds, Moore said she shows young garden workers how to plant those seeds, harvest the produce and then take seeds from those watermelons to start the process over again.
“I teach them how to turn that 11-cent pack of seeds into a business,” she said.
Contact staff writer Tyler Fenwick at 317-762-7853. Follow him on Twitter @Ty_Fenwick. Joseph Thomas is an intern for the Recorder.
SUPPORT LAWRENCE COMMUNITY GARDENS
Lawrence Community Gardens has a garden stand on site at its garden.
• Where: 9240 E. 46th St.
• When: 9 a.m.-7 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday
The organization also takes a garden stand to Eskenazi Health Center Grassy Creek.
• Where: 9443 E. 38th St.
• When: 10-11 a.m. every Tuesday