Morning is one of the most pleasurable times of day to spend in the garden. In the morning, the garden is quiet, flooded with sun, damp with dew, and the heat of the day has yet to rise. On one such sunny morning, I meet with Yenny, an intern at GSF, to ask her a few questions about her experience working in the 24th Street Elementary Garden.
As we talk, Yenny waters a row of carrots, weeds a bed of basil, and prepares a patch of dirt for a new crop of onions. The sun rises above us as she works the pitch fork. The soil yields. Yenny picks sun gold tomatoes. They are her favorite vegetable. “I love how sweet they are,” she says, “especially when they’re warm from the sun.” Earlier in the summer, Yenny helped plant these tomatoes. “One of the most inspiring things about gardening,” she says, “is that you’re creating all the time.” She feels satisfied whenever she sees the plants that she has nurtured prosper. “Even when it seems as if the world isn’t flourishing, the garden always is.”
In the classroom, Yenny brings the same sense of warmth and openness. Although she enjoys tending the garden, she especially enjoys teaching. “Young children are so eager to learn, and they tend to be more connected to their environment than adults,” says Yenny. “I wanted to work with GSF because I loved the idea of interactive teaching. Kids get to learn about the earth by actually spending time in nature.”
As a recent convert to LA, Yenny knows all too well how disconnected one can feel from nature while living in the city. “There aren’t many green spaces,” she says. “I must constantly remind myself to be open to the experience of nature.” Spending time in the garden is one crucial way to remind ourselves that it’s fun to get our hands dirty. As Yenny notes, “It’s really easy to forget the pleasures of nature.”
When Yenny and her partner finish harvesting the tomatoes, we walk to her car to fetch three trays of seedlings that she had taken home with her to nurture. While Yenny has long been interested in cooking, she had limited gardening experience when she began volunteering with GSF. “One of the greatest surprises of my internship was that I remembered how much I like working outside,” Yenny says. Through her conversations with Lalia, our resident gardener at the 24th Street Elementary School, Yenny developed a lasting interest in sustainable agriculture. “I learned so much from Lalia,” Yenny says as she pushes a wheelbarrow down the sidewalk. “From her I learned the subtler aspects of gardening. I learned about native species, how to use herbs medicinally, all kinds of secret tips, and a deeper sense of respect for the environment.”