Promising New Garden Planned for New Booker T. Community Center

With the rise in popularity of community gardens in San Francisco, the Booker T. Washington Community Service Center hopes to create a revitalized garden with the construction of its new facility.

Community gardens provide an outlet for people to learn about agriculture, grow plants and vegetables, or just enjoy gardening as a hobby, and actual people in the community help to keep them thriving.

“There are community members that help maintain the gardens,” said Melissa Tang, a program manager at Community Grows, an organization dedicated to creating gardens in San Francisco. “It’s a really great example of how a community can come together.”

The goal of Community Grows is to “cultivate healthy youth through growing gardens in low-income, diverse communities,” according to its website. This includes areas such as the Western Addition, where the Booker T. Washington Center is located. Community Grows maintains a variety of gardens throughout the community, including the Booker T. Garden facility.

Many gardens are located in schools or youth organizations and are mostly unavailable to the public.

As a result, some of the purely community-driven gardens, such as the Argonne Community Garden in the Richmond District, have a waiting list of “approximately one and a half years” in order to join, according to their website.

Those involved with the new Booker T. Washington facility are hoping to create a garden that finds a happy medium between the two types.

“It will be a teaching garden as well as a community garden,” said Jerry Trotter, the director of programs at the Booker T. Washington Community Service Center. “It’s hard to be a teaching space and a space that’s also open to the community, but this garden will try to offer that.”

They will attempt to meet both the needs of the kids in Booker T. as well as members of the community through a scheduling system, according to Trotter.

However, there will still be a strong emphasis on the children and young adults that the Booker T. Center serves.

One way they will do this is by providing a variety of programs to them, such as the healthy food program.

“The healthy food program will let the kids harvest food from the garden and be able to cook with it,” said Brittney Rodgers, the facilities manager for Booker T.

Another new addition will be the Mind/Body Health Center, which will work in tandem with the garden.

“The concept behind the Mind/Body Center is to create a dedicated space for meditation, and a place to get away from the busyness of the other programs,” said Trotter. “We used to use the gymnasium in the old facility, but there was a competing environment with other activities.”

The Mind/Body Center will also be used to help plan and manage activities in the garden.

“This will be a place where the garden class can come and concept build as a group,” said Trotter. “There will be a core group that supports the liveliness of the garden and helps maintain it.”

Though the new Booker T. Center will be completed in the fall of 2017, initial plans already promise to create new facilities and programs for the people of the Western Addition.

“It will bring another open space to the community, which we can’t have enough of,” said Trotter.

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