Garden tour shows off homegrown goods


By Amy Shelton

DeKalb County Community Gardens held its first fundraising event this weekend, hosting a tour of nine of 40 gardens in the DeKalb and Sycamore area.

The gardens project was started by project coordinator Dan Kenney in summer 2012 as a way to grow food to be donated to local food pantries.

The tour started at the Mayor’s Garden, located on the corner of South Fifth and Franklin streets, with a dedication from Mayor John Rey. The mayor shed a few tears as he described his feelings of gratitude toward the project’s success.

The event was followed up with a dinner at the restaurant Tapa La Luna, 226 E. Lincoln Highway, on Sunday, and ticketholders were able to eat a meal prepared with produce from the gardens.

Misty Haji-Sheikh, a member of the community gardens board, gave the tour of the first garden and said community gardens have produced more than a ton per week of quality vegetables for food pantries in the DeKalb area. The Mayor’s Garden also has a children’s garden in the shape of a pizza that includes all-organic foods that would be used in making a pizza. Haji-Sheikh said the board uses the gardens as an agricultural teaching facility for children.

“I love to teach from the dirt to the plate,” Haji-Sheikh said. “I love to teach gardening, cooking. Food is something that we all share … I’ve had people stop by this garden or some of the other places that we’ve been and just start thanking you. They said ‘thanks to you I eat today.’ Think about that … if you could not eat and someone handed you food, how would you feel?”

Mary Kowalski, community gardens board member,, said her favorite part of being involved is “knowing that were making a difference in the community.”

At Lincoln Elementary School, 220 E. Sunset Place, the garden gathered more than 200 pounds of produce in the last week, as well as more than 1,000 pounds for the year. Lincoln Elementary teacher Bill Imm, who helps maintain the garden, said the garden provided “a great educational experience for the kids … even just knowing what the vegetables are.”

He said before the project some students didn’t know the difference between a tomato and a pepper. The students of Lincoln Elementary also took a field trip to the local food pantry to distribute their grown produce.

DeKalb resident Bonnie Anderson, who was biking the tour with her husband, said she enjoyed “seeing the families were getting involved, the children were involved. They’re paying attention.”