Course: Bahá’í Perspectives on Agriculture and Food (2022)
Faculty Mentor: Neil Whatley
Editor’s Note: The two illustrations on this page are by Connie DeMillo, drawn from photos by Bea Wartchow.
The project that is bringing all of the loose ends together from the Wilmette courses on Bahá’í Perspectives on Agriculture and Food and Anti-Black Racism in the U.S. and Building a Unified Society is our Seeds of Hope Children’s Garden. The Rice Street Community Gardens is a whole different world, where people from different parts of the globe come together around a garden plot.
I was inspired to start a community garden after taking the Wilmette Agriculture class. I was awarded a plot, which needed to be cleaned, the garden designed, and we needed to rig up eight-foot walls to keep the deer out. Our Bahá’í group’s sixteen year old, Roo, designed the garden in a pinwheel shape.
Photo: Connie DeMillo in the garden
Our plot at the Rice Street Gardens functions as a children’s garden, a place to go and escape from the world, a meeting place, and an endless opportunity to meet people from other parts of the world. When it doesn’t rain, everybody is affected, so we have gardening in common.
The local Bahá’í group I belong to has seven members, who have been meeting by Zoom since the pandemic began. (I became a Baha’i around that time, so I don’t have experience meeting in person.) Our group needs a place to gather; we can do that at the garden.
Our children’s classes are also being held in the garden this summer. Our first class was Sunday, May 22—a cloudy, cool, windy spring day. We opened by jumping about to Mandisa’s Good Morning, then started the class with prayers. After the children recited their prayers, I began mine: O God, Educate these children… when I reached the part about ”let Thy rain fall upon these children,” I felt something cold and hard hit my hand… It hailed for about the duration of that sentence!
Things really got going when the kids collaborated at the compost pile: filling buckets and working together to transport the compost back to the garden to feed the plants. The kids literally dug in, and came tromping back to the garden with the joy of the seven dwarves at work. We distributed the compost, sang a couple of songs, and headed to the picnic area for a snack. The kids began playing together and none of them wanted to leave.
My co-teachers and I have decided to increase our community building activities: garden work, picking up garbage, and potentially drawing in other children who are at the garden along with their parents. As the weather warms up, we can add food, music, and games to the end of our children’s class and invite anyone at the garden to join in.
I have this visualization of people sharing a prayer from their own culture, maybe in their own language, and the power of us all praying together.