Gardening Know How Sponsorship Recipient: Esperanza Community Garden

This year, Gardening Know How's School and Community Garden Sponsorship Program was fortunate enough to help support 20 gardens with $1,000 each. These gardens represent a wide array of community and school programs, from Florida to Saskatchewan and many places in between. Each has its own unique and powerful story, and we're excited to share them with you. Every other week we'll highlight one of our sponsorship recipients to help spread the word about how amazing they really are. This week we're featuring the Esperanza Community Garden.

Hopeworks is a nonprofit organization based in Camden, NJ, where it works with young people, "with a focus on education, technology, and entrepreneurship." Usually, Hopeworks focuses on teaching life and work skills that empower the youth of Camden to enter the business world. But the Esperanza Community Garden is a slightly different - though no less important - undertaking.

The Esperanza Community Garden was founded in 2011 in a city block near Hopeworks' original location. The block was a known problem area, and a frequent spot for drug dealing. Hopeworks teamed up with the community to start a small garden, diverting crime, giving locals a place to grow produce, and giving the block a much needed boost in the right direction.

Over the years, the garden has served a vital role in a community that is otherwise lacking in reliable ways to get fresh, healthy food. Some plots are run by neighbors who grow their own plants, while others are maintained by volunteers to produce food that is donated to the church across the street for weekly food drives.

Many community members depend on the garden, which is "the only free-access established source for organic and fresh produce in the North Camden area," but the budget to keep it going is small. Hopeworks is a nonprofit that puts nearly all of its funds into youth engagement, and while it would love to do more for the garden, it's just not possible to do everything at once.

That's where Gardening Know How comes in. With a $1,000 grant, the members of the Esperanza Community Garden have plans to repair their fence and bring in large quantities of much needed soil and mulch. They also hope to update their mural, a centerpiece of the garden that has taken a beating over the years. They plan to paint a new, more weatherproof mural that, according to Hopeworks' Alec Cassel, "will be representative of the grit and resilience of our community, that will make them proud to know the garden is in their community, and will hopefully attract more community members, and make it a captivating green space, where residents can get away from the city structures and spend some time with nature."

With the grant from Gardening Know How, the Esperanza Community Garden will be providing North Camden residents with a safe, green space to grow their own produce and give back to their community. We're proud to be able to help them realize this dream.

Liz Baessler
Senior Editor

The only child of a horticulturist and an English teacher, Liz Baessler was destined to become a gardening editor. She has been with Gardening Know how since 2015, and a Senior Editor since 2020. She holds a BA in English from Brandeis University and an MA in English from the University of Geneva, Switzerland. After years of gardening in containers and community garden plots, she finally has a backyard of her own, which she is systematically filling with vegetables and flowers.