Weather Updates

Vegetable gardens built for Waukegan Head Start kids

Dan Creagh East Lansing Mich. (left) CollFrantz AkrOhio Mike Roach Dallas Texas mix top soil pemoss make good growing soil.

Dan Creagh of East Lansing, Mich. (left), Collin Frantz of Akron, Ohio, and Mike Roach of Dallas, Texas, mix top soil and peat moss to make a good growing soil. | Rob Dicker~Sun-Times Media

storyidforme: 17619420
tmspicid: 6354625
fileheaderid: 2940995

Learn more

Learn more about community gardening through

Visit Community Action Partnership of Lake County at

Article Extras
Story Image

Updated: September 2, 2011 2:32AM

When they return to school in two weeks, Waukegan Head Start kids will discover something new and as old as the ages: vegetable gardening. The pre-kindergardeners will pluck a pungent basil leaf and learn its smell, watch a purple eggplant grow fat, count peas that climb up a trellis. And they will learn to like the taste of some of the unfamiliar plants they will help tend in their new “Greene Garden.”

Five raised vegetable beds were installed on Wednesday at Community Action Partnership of Lake County, 1200 Glen Flora Ave., by a small army of volunteers from Chicago-based Kellogg Business School of Management. Kellogg partnered with the not-for-profit Yellow Tractor, a garden project management company, to fund and build eight low-maintenance, organic garden systems in the Chicago area as part of its Community Impact Day.

CAP, one of a nationwide network of 1,100 such agencies dedicated to fighting poverty, was the only Lake County site chosen for the project upon recommendation by partner and funder United Way of Lake County.

That group’s board Chair Loreen Mershimer of Wilmette, a retired Abbott Labs executive and avid gardener, oversaw the CAP planting, which included the installation of compost bins, trellises and “hoop” tops that turn the raised beds into mini greenhouses that will allow for post-frost growing.

“We want to encourage more healthy eating,” said Mershimer, who grew up in rural Pennsylvania understanding the seasonal celebrations through the harvests — strawberries at Memorial Day, cherry pie for July 4th, apples picked by Labor Day.

CAP offers early education for nearly 700 children, The agency’s executive director, Mary Lockhart White, said the vegetable beds will provide new learning opportunities for both children and their parents and will make it easier to carry out CAP’s commitment to First Lady Michelle Obama’s Healthy Kids Campaign.

“We’re excited,” White said. “These gardens represent a community effort that will not only help us educate kids and their parents about healthy eating, but will also put healthy food on more tables.”

Vegetables grown in the new beds will be prepared through CAP’s licensed kitchen and will also be distributed through the agency’s food pantry.

“When kids eat healthier, their metabolism works better, their energy level is better, and they’re able to learn,” White said.

“Kids see so much fast food and cereal — they don’t hear ‘Would you like a peapod?’” Mershimer said. “We can get them excited about vegetables.”

Kellogg gardeners Erika Hubbard of Philadelphia, Noriko Usami of Japan and Clara Valenstine of California, stood admiring the spinach, peppers, Swiss chard, peas and broccoli they had spent two hours planting. None had ever planted before and they commented that the new CAP garden had already taught them important lessons.

“I don’t think any of us knew you could plant this late in the season or that it was this easy,” Valenstine said.

“It’s been a great experience to understand how American society works together,” Usami said.

© 2014 Sun-Times Media, LLC. All rights reserved. This material may not be copied or distributed without permission. For more information about reprints and permissions, visit To order a reprint of this article, click here.