How do you create a healing and engaging space for the community? The answer lies at Kids’ Food Basket Farm – Ottawa + Allegan On the Ridge, where an immersive new garden welcomes visitors to pause from the bustle of life and relish their senses.
Moving with the wind, a deep purple butterfly bush beckons KFBees to visit. Lavender begs to be sniffed. Fuzzy lamb’s ear leaves are poised for petting. Bright orange coneflowers excite the eyes. The sensory garden is the creation of six high school students taking part in a two-week summer educational program called Future Prep’d IChallengeU. The garden they built harnesses the healing properties of nature in a kid-friendly space designed for the KFB Learn team’s most popular lesson – Eat a Rainbow.
“We chose the rainbow because one of their lessons to the kids is Eat a Rainbow. If you eat red fruits and vegetables, it’ll help your heart. If you eat green ones, they’ll help your energy. Yellow helps with your muscles, orange ones, like carrots, will help your eyes. We added that into the design so they’ll [the students] will connect it to the lesson,” explained Holland High School Sophomore Yazlén Ochoa.
It was a whirlwind experience for the IChallengeU students. Over three days, they learned about KFB, researched the healing benefits of gardening and met with farm site leaders to find out more. The students put their newfound knowledge to work, laying out the sensory garden in a rainbow of inverted colors favoring purple plants – the most attractive color to KFBees.
On Day Four, the IChallengeU students began reaching out to the community for contributions. Sandy Ridge Farms, Windridge Perennials & Landscaping and Grasman Greenhouse answered with leafy contributions to each layer of the rainbow. Hostas and daylilies donated directly by community members filled out the space.
It took countless phone calls, many donations, $205 and plenty of tenacity to bring their vision to life.
“It’s been really great to see these kids face obstacles, change plans and keep a positive attitude,” said West Ottawa High School Teacher Shelby Mangan, who advised the students. “[They found out that] what they can create is still great even when they have to be flexible and adaptable.”
Charlotte Busscher’s favorite part started on Day Five.
“Getting hands in the dirt, just knowing it’s going to do some good in the future,” said the Zeeland West sophomore.
Together, the group raked, dug and planted until their rainbow was complete.
“I’ve never been as involved in doing outside work than here and I think that’s very cool,” Ochoa said. “I like how this will actually impact the community firsthand.”
On Day Seven, the powerhouse team was done. They became the first group in iChallengeU’s history to roll out a solution within the two-week preparation period, earning them applause and awards during their final presentation.
Every step along the way, the students kept West Michigan’s next generation in mind.
“This sensory garden is going to lend so much more when KFB brings students out here to learn. When the KFB Learn team is like, ‘Yeah, you’re going to Eat a Rainbow, but you’re also in a rainbow!’ That adds a lot of meaning,” Mangan said. “I am really proud of the students, that they listened and heard what Kids’ Food Basket wanted and what their mission is in general, and they made that come to life.”
Kids’ Food Basket is grateful for these young leaders who stepped up to make a difference in the lives of their neighbors. Come see the sensory garden for yourself! Sign up to volunteer at KFB Farm – Ottawa + Allegan On the Ridge!