GET FRESH: Gloria Backman at the Green Youth Farm farmer's market with Derrick Smith and Sarah Pekovitch. (JACKIE SCHULZ/Contributor)

Following the trend of staying in shape and eating healthy food, here’s one way you can keep up with the frenzy: visit the fresh garden oasis growing in the Lawndale neighborhood.

Gloria Backman has completed her Master Gardener’s Classes and is now officially a Master Gardener, with credentials to prove it. Part of her training included volunteer time with some local community gardens. Gloria chose the Green Youth Farm in Lawndale.

This group is at least partially funded by the Chicago Botanic Garden up on Lake-Cook Road. Local students from Chicago Public Schools work there all summer and become absorbed in the process of gardening.

They experience the satisfaction and feeling of fulfillment by working with the soil and making food grow, Gloria pointed out. The young people operate a farmers’ market every Wednesday from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. July until Oct. 2.

This market is under the supervision of a volunteer, Sarah Pekovitch and her Manley High School senior (now a graduate) Derrick Smith. LINK, WIC/Senior Farmers’ Market Coupons, credit, debit or cash all accepted. About 20 feet from the market is the most delightful, charming café featuring the foods grown in the garden. It’s called the Green Tomato Café, located at 3750 W. Ogden Ave., inside the Lawndale Christian Building.

The beautifully-maintained structure houses a women’s health center, a lounge, a fitness center with the latest of equipment, a grocery store and a gift shop. There is a special little nook for young children with books, games, etc. Just open the door and walk in — everyone is welcome.

About a mile down the road is a one-acre garden, also a part of this project. Students from the Lawndale area worked in this garden all summer — watermelon, cantaloupe, radishes, broccoli, kale, Swiss chard, beans, peas, tomatoes, tomatoes, and more tomatoes; and so much more.

The young people, probably from the Chicago Public Art Groups, took some of those huge sewer pipes, decorated them with mosaic pieces and planted fruit trees in them.

I am looking at a pear from one such tree, even as I write. This one acre garden is under the supervision of Carson Poole who earned a degree in agriculture from Cornell University in Ithaca, NY. He grew up on a sheep farm in the Finger Lakes region of New York State. Carson recalls his family bringing in weak little lambs during the cold winters and feeding them from baby bottles. His dedication to organic, healthy farming is inspirational, evangelical.

He is truly making the world a better place.

To learn more

  • Green Tomato Café
  • 3750 W. Ogden Ave. (in the Lawndale Christian Building).
  • 872-588-3380.