Gary Comer Youth Center's Urban Agriculture Program offers seed to table learning

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Thousands of pounds of fruits, veggies and herbs are being grown in the heart of Chicago's South Side in Greater Grand Crossing.

Students are learning skills they can take beyond the classroom with lessons in culinary arts, farming, food equity and environmental science at the Gary Comer Youth Center's Seed to Table Urban Agriculture and Culinary Arts Program.

It's a thriving garden full of produce and perennials that any farmer would be proud. The center's rooftop garden, which is all grown by students, exposes young people to all kinds of plants.

"They know they've seen lavender maybe in hand lotion. They see mint in gum or in toothpaste. They've had sunflower seeds as snacks," said Director of Comer Urban Agriculture Program Marji Hess.

A huge garden, that once was a vacant lot, sits across the street. So far, about 1,000 people have learned about the science or agriculture. They've grown the plans and even used them in their culinary classes, allowing students to cook what they've grown.

"When I cook at work, I'll take the fresh produce that I cook and I'll take it home for someone else to try, and when they taste it, they're like, 'Mmm, it's good,'" said student Raven Payton.

The crops that they don't use they sell at their farm-stand that is next to garden, across from the school. The program is also providing much-needed healthy options where they are often lacking.

"We're also providing an example to the commercial entities out there to say, 'hey come to the community because they do want access to this food,'" said Comer Education Campus Executive Director Rhonda Hopps.

For the students in the program, it's about growing a lasting legacy.

"My grandfather, he actually had a garden, but he had to let it go," said student Liv Carter. "Since I know all of this material, I wish I could go back and help him."

On Friday, September 27th, the students at the Comer Education campus will be celebrated with a benefit luncheon where their achievements will be recognized, and those incredible crops they are growing will be served at the luncheon.
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