The Prairie Patch Project


The Prairie Patch is a community garden project
that was started in 2016. The staff at Indian Prairie Library had been
dreaming about a community garden that would bring people together and provide hands on learning opportunities for a couple of years but we hadn’t figured out how
to make it a reality, until we met Cynthia and Mary Beth from Good Worx Inc. Cynthia and Mary Beth started the Sunny Patch
Project at the Safety Village in Darien to raise awareness about local food insecurity. With their help, we were able to install 20
patches at the library. Our patches are all raised beds. We use black fabric smart pots. All of the food that is grown in the Prairie
Patch is given to families in our community who have been identified as food insecure
– families who struggle to find enough food or who don’t know where their next meal
will come from. The first summer, the garden was maintained
through our Garden Buddies classes and by volunteers from Good Worx. The Garden Buddies met twice a week throughout
the summer. Kids in grades 1-6 were paired up with teen
volunteers. Together they watered and cared for the garden
and they learned about photosynthesis, the water cycle, composting with worms, and more. Families were able to pick up fresh veggies
from Good Worx or from the local food pantries that Good Worx delivers to. In our second year, we expanded the garden
from 20 beds to 40 beds. We’ve also expanded our programming at the
library. The Garden Buddies class has become our Garden
Lab. We have kids and teens working and learning
out in the garden every week. They’re dissecting seeds, testing soil for
various minerals, measuring and charting growth, and so much more. This year, some of the families who receive
food from the patch are growing their own food in reserved beds at the library. They get to choose what they want to eat and
they maintain their own spaces. Others, who are not able to make it to the
library, are still able to receive food that is grown in the Prairie Patch. We’ve also expanded our composting program. We’ve placed a compost bin in our staff
breakroom to collect food scraps. Volunteers can bring their own compostable
materials to the garden. We mix it all up in our Envirocycle composter,
so that we can make our own soil. Whenever possible, as weather allows, the
garden is watered using the rain barrel system that was installed by Eagle Scout Troop 101
in Darien. With a larger garden, we need even more hands
to keep it going. This year, adults can get involved too. They can sign up to volunteer through the
library or through Good Worx. We get a lot of expert support from our friends
in the Darien Garden Club. Members of the Darien Garden Club can often
be found in the Prairie Patch generously giving their time or participating in the Garden
Lab classes. The Prairie Patch benefits the community in
three major ways. The first benefit is that it builds community. It brings people together and creates connection
and a sense of belonging. Second, it provides kids and teens with an
outdoor, hands-on classroom where they can play while learning natural science concepts
and basic STEM skills. And finally, it feeds people. The Prairie Patch is meeting a basic need
for fresh food for families who live right here. We’re nourishing our neighbors, we’re
providing fun, educational experiences, and we’re creating community at the Prairie
Patch.