Chesterton Tribune



Gardening for good health at the Duneland YMCA

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Through a unique partnership with HealthLinc, the Duneland YMCA’s organic garden will help feed hundreds of families this summer and help Y summer camp children understand garden to fork. The garden originated when Y program staff transformed an agriculture and nutrition lesson plan into a small working garden. That year, day camp participants worked closely with Y staff in the garden and the yield was sent home with day camp families and YMCA members.

Then, during a routine partnership meeting, leaders from HealthLinc toured the garden and shared a vision of providing fresh produce to their clients who didn’t have necessary resources to purchase them. Last year, the new garden cooperative with a generous sponsorship from HealthLinc began its outreach mission to help others and hundreds of pounds of produce were shared with HealthLinc clients.

Now in its third year, the garden is bigger and better than ever. At Y Summer Camp this year, kids get to choose which of six “Camp Clubs” they want to participate in each week and several are very interested in the Gardening Club. The curriculum includes learning how to plant, garden maintenance, harvesting, pest control, healthy nutrition, and helping others. This year corn, tomatoes, broccoli, peas, onions, cucumbers, green beans, zucchini, spaghetti squash, watermelon, cantaloupe, green peppers, cauliflower, lettuce, spinach, strawberries, rhubarb and herbs are growing in the garden.

“We’re fortunate to have Sandy Strader tending the garden daily,” said Megan Sowers, Y School Age Program Coordinator. “She loves gardening and helping educate youth about the value of organic, non-GMO fruits and vegetables.”

Strader has a long history of working with kids and gardens. She and her husband were both passionate gardeners. They taught their four kids about fresh produce in their home garden. For several years she worked educating children at Buckley Homestead, a living history farm in Lowell, IN. Sadly, two years ago she lost her husband of 37 years and she was longing for another educational opportunity to fill her time.

“I’m so blessed that a Y staff person told me that the Duneland Y was looking for a Garden Coordinator,” she said. “It was the answer to a prayer in my time of need. I love being able to teach kids how to grow fruits and vegetables and understand nutritional values. It’s even more exciting to know it will help feed families in need. It’s a great feeling to help kids understand the concept of giving back.”

Strader says the kids ask amazing questions. They’re almost always surprised to find out that the broccoli their parents buy at the grocery store originates from a seed that’s been planted in the ground. It’s a difficult concept for some to grasp, so it’s a good experience for them to watch the garden grow. One young gardener asked her where the pasta plants were. Another child wanted to know where the crouton aisle was so she could add them to the salad they were eating from the garden.

Camp participant Bobby said “I love the garden because I like to eat vegetables to keep me healthy.” Sam liked working in the garden because she’s helping the community.

So how does the garden grow at the Duneland Y? With sincere thanks from our partner HealthLinc, lots of planning and hard work on Sandy Strader’s part, and lots of love and kindness provided by Gardening Club members. At the Y, healthy living is so much more than working out Đ it also includes growing fresh fruit and vegetables for those in need.

The Duneland Family YMCA is at 215 Roosevelt St., Chesterton. The Y has been serving the Duneland community for more than fifty years, focusing on youth development, healthy living, and social responsibility. To find out more about Y programs and services, visit online at or call 926-4204.


Posted 7/19/2018




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