I grew up in the inner city of Chicago. As an urban child, I had limited exposure to nature, and my schools didn’t have student gardens. I started gardening after college, and that’s when I realized how important it is for youth to learn about growing food.
Like many kids in the “age of convenience,” I consumed fast food and TV dinners quite often. I learned how to cook during college while studying abroad in Spain, and at that time I noticed a great improvement in my health and energy.
My first job after college was on an organic farm. The farm owner gave me a book about sustainable agriculture and soil health that had a major impact on me. The book provided scientific explanations for how soils lose productivity if exposed to increasing amounts of chemical inputs over time. As I learned more about this topic, I decided to pursue a career in ecological agriculture.
I went to one of the top agricultural graduate schools in Germany and completed a Master’s degree in Organic Agriculture and Food Systems. During my studies, I discovered an article by Monica Eng about how Chicago schools were not allowed to integrate school garden produce into their cafeterias. I investigated this issue by conducting my Master’s thesis on school garden-to-cafeteria program implementation, drawing upon knowledge from experts in Chicago, NYC and Denver (Click here to see my thesis.) Chicago schools have since changed their policies to promote and regulate school gardens via their “Eat What You Grow” program.
Through my research and experience, I’m convinced that gardening is the most powerful way to encourage healthier consumption choices, and to potentially mitigate epidemics like obesity and diabetes. Studies show that when children engage in gardening, they eat more fruits and vegetables– and they enjoy the taste of them more!
Since returning to my hometown of Chicago in 2013, I have collaborated with numerous organizations and stakeholders that are invested in the growth of garden education locally and beyond. My goal is to give more people the opportunity to experience the benefits of gardening and preparing fresh foods.
In 2021, I chose to represent my garden education work with the name “Rainbow City Gardens.”
I look forward to connecting with you!