Over the summer of 2022, CommUniverCity SJSU hosted its third annual gardening workshop series, which entailed three in-person workshops and free gardening kits for 30 families.
Pico de Gallo, a popular Latin recipe made of tomatoes, onions, and cilantro often used as a dip or a topping was the centerpiece of these workshops. Community residents had tried the dish and even be planted the main ingredients using their take-home gardening kit.
Each of the three workshop had a workbook with activities which included getting in tune with the human five senses, naming parts of a plant, and a measurement exercise. Altogether, residents worked as a team to fill out the anatomy of a plant.
The garden workshop’s primary focus was to engage community members by inviting them to a family-friendly event where they can learn about the basics of gardening, some background on Pico de Gallo, and plant anatomy. Residents exercised their capabilities necessary to revitalize community health. For some participants, especially the youth, this would be their first time gardening.
13.5% of Central San José’s population lives in poverty and has a lower education attainment percentage than the national average, which often means that individuals eat under nutritional recommendation and quality. What the garden workshop does is provide a viable outlet for individuals to learn about simpler and healthier living which can be as simple as growing fresh produce.
“For me, it was a very nice learning opportunity. In the future, this will allow me to eat more healthy & fresh. It was also beneficial for my mental health. I will be sharing this knowledge and food with my family. Thank you.”– Monica, Santa Maria community resident
According to the National Library of Medicine, gardening has also been proven to improve mental health. After enduring over two years of the COVID-19 pandemic and the frustration of limiting social interactions, this gardening workshop was a great way for community members to come together and learn about everything relating to gardening.The youth seemed to particularly enjoy gardening.
Each garden kit came with a planter of two different styles, 5-gallon planter or window sill planter. Along with the planters they received soil and were able to plant their own plant of choice: tomato, onion, jalapeño, and cilantro plant.
With bright smiles, children were excited to be able to help pour in soil and pot the plant. While in this process, they also learned facts about plants, such as the hairs on the tomato stem actually being roots.
“It’s kind of weird to me that the hairs on the tomato plant is the roots.”
– Empire Gardens Student
Many expressed the gratitude (and shock) when they realized that their plants were made to be taken home. One child expressed their excitement by stating that they can’t wait for their tomatoes to grow so that they can make guacamole– a healthy, clean dish using ingredients straight from the garden.
CommUniverCity’s summer garden workshops helped explore the benefits and joys of gardening. Community members came together and were encouraged to talk amongst themselves about the common activity. We can’t wait for next summer!