Unexpected Sunshine & Other Side Effects of Build a Garden

photograph by @alejandrolandestoy

“I always wanted to grow my own food,” Yasmin Van, VINES gardener, told us. As a child she would visit her aunt in Georgia and watch as she tended a garden next to her home. “I remember the corn we would eat out of it, and the pecan and pomegranate trees,” she recalls. She grew up in New York City, “We had parks,” she says, “but to be connected to the Earth in that way, especially as a little kid, was transformative. As I got older, I got away from that.”

The Build a Garden program has reconnected her. She had been considering how she could grow food on her back porch when a VINES staff member reached out to see if she was interested in some garden bags. Yasmin recalls her response was “Yes! Abso-freakin-lutely, I’m interested!” She knew that this was her opportunity to see if she could actually grow produce for her family and she did. “I tried collard greens, kale, tomatoes, lettuce, spinach, cucumbers, and herbs – and everything grew,” Yasmin said.

Growing produce gave Yasmin a greater appreciation for farmers, their hard work and reliance on so many elements they can’t control to make a living and feed the community. “We have no control over rain, sun, or the wind. When my tomatoes don’t do well, it’s unfortunate but it’s not my livelihood.”

With garden bags right on their back porch Yasmin’s sons got into growing, and of course eating, the food as well. Her older son, Alex, was really interested in learning more about the process. “He became more conscientious of the plants and what they needed, and more conscientious about where his food comes from and what it takes to grow it. I didn’t anticipate that he would get that out of this experience,” she said.

The Build a Garden program also had another unexpected surprise. “I spent more time on my back porch and got more sunshine in my house,” says Yasmin, “I’ve lived here 15 years but last summer was the first time since I moved in that I kept my backdoor open because I wanted to see the garden.” Now that they have a year of experience under their belts Yasmin and her sons are looking forward to learning and growing again this year.