All posts by Karen Lally

Yoga and Salad in the Lower Garden

Rosa Parks Students

Finding Inner Peas: Yoga in the Gardens

A new tradition has begun at Rosa Parks as students join Seed-to-Mouth Garden Educator, Annie, for weekly yoga sessions in the Lower Garden. The kids have fun choosing Yoga Pretzel cards for the group to achieve, cards which illustrate common yoga poses and encourage health and wellness for the body and mind.

Loving Salad From My Head To-ma-toes

Students at Rosa Parks were treated this month to an impromptu salad day thanks to all of the extra veggies in the gardens. Due to the warm weather and sunny days this Fall, the garden plots are thriving with excess produce filling the beds. Wanting to avoid waste, Annie was inspired to create a spontaneous salad treat, complete with homemade croutons she made the night before! Students loved the salad and the entire bowl was finished in just over 20 minutes.


Official Salad Days at Rosa Parks started up again this month with the support of the dedicated Green Team!

Four-Ingredient Homemade Croutons


  • 4 cups of cubed bread
  • 1/3 cup of olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt


  • Preheat oven to 375 degree Fahrenheit.
  • In a bowl, combine cubed bread, garlic powder, and salt. Drizzle olive oil over bread while stirring. Stir well until bread is coated by all ingredients and olive oil is absorbed.
  • Spread bread cubes into an even layer on a sheet pan. Bake for 10 minutes or until golden brown.

Good Times in the Garden

Besides yoga and salad days, students are also becoming involved in the Lower Garden by helping with watering, weeding, pruning, litter clean-up, and maintenance. Since the start of the school year, the gardens have transformed thanks to the time and energy put in by students, teachers, and staff. With the vibrant mural and the beautiful greens, the space has become a calming and welcoming place for the students to spend time.

What a Transformation!

July 2017


December 2017


#MLKDay of Service: Honoring Dr. King

Holiday Wreath and Card Making

Make it a day on, not a day off. This was the rallying phrase as thousands of people across the U.S. turned out on Monday, January 15th, to celebrate and honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s life and legacy. The day of service began nearly 25 years ago, after Congress passed the King Holiday and Service Act of 1994. The day is meant to honor the dedicated and passionate service that Dr. King gave to both his community and to the nation as a whole.

Corporation for National and Community Services. Leading the Day of Service efforts, the CNCS writes that the initiative “empowers individuals, strengthens communities, bridges barriers, creates solutions to social problems, and moves us closer to Dr. King’s vision of a “Beloved Community.”

Taking Part in the Celebration. On Monday, CommunityGrows joined the African American Arts and Culture Complex, Citizen Film, and 3.9 Art Collective for our own day of service. The morning started with breakfast and an amazing performance by Brandon Hughes titled, “Imagine King Was Here.” Following his performance, Acting Mayor London Breed gave a moving speech about the importance of taking ownership of and building up our communities. After some final remarks from the AAACC Co-Executive Directors Melonie and Melorra Green, volunteers divided into three groups to complete projects to beautify the community.


Community Projects. One group joined the 3.9 Art Collective to create art for seniors, one group joined Citizen Film to clean up and plant in the Buchanan Mall, and one group joined CommunityGrows to weed and lay stones in the AAACC garden. The day ended with a barbeque and social hour in the parking lot.

Photos: Sophie Constantinou at Citizen Film
Photos: Sophie Constantinou at Citizen Film
Photo: Sophie Constantinou at Citizen Film
Photo: Sophie Constantinou at Citizen Film

Thank You. We at CommunityGrows want to thank all the volunteers who showed up and continue to support our programs and organization! We also want to give a shout-out to Broadmoor Landscape Supply for donating the rocks for our garden and to the AAACC, Citizen Film, and 3.9 Art Collective for a successful event!

Thanks again to everyone who volunteered to serve the community!

Martin Luther King, Jr., from: Nobel Foundation ( [Public domain]. Wikimedia Commons.

Deck the Halls with Wreaths


Over the weekend neighbors and friends gathered together for the 14th annual wreath and card making event at the Hayes Valley South Community Room. Beautiful wreaths were created by all, with ribbon, trinkets, glitter, and bells adorning each and every one!


Joining the festivities were the BEETS (Band of Environmentally Educated and Employable Teens), a program designed to teach students ages 15-19 about environmental issues and help them to develop job skills.

While many will hang their wreaths on doors and walls this holiday season, some creative thinkers are now wearing holly-themed necklaces. Either way, the wreaths look great!


A special thanks to the Hayes Valley Neighborhood Association for donating to make this event a success. It was a lovely afternoon with the wreaths, cards, cider, and good company. Thank you for all who attended and happy holidays!


See more photos from the event here!

Today Is #GivingTuesday


“Like plants, communities and people need support and care in order to grow. Life is like a plant, in that it never stops growing if it is cared for.”

— Summer BEETS Alum 2016

Here at CommunityGrows, we’ve had the privilege of serving and working with the Western Addition and Hayes Valley neighborhoods for 23 years. (Read our story below!)

And we couldn’t have done it without such incredibly generous and dedicated partners, neighbors, and friends in this community. To everyone who has worked with us in the past and present to fulfill the mission of CommunityGrows and to create these beautiful green spaces where all are welcome – thank you!

Today, on #GivingTuesday, we are asking you to support the right of low-income youth and youth of color in San Francisco to learn from the environment and enjoy the outdoors. Your donation will go toward supplies like seeds and garden tools, books, journals and science kits, stipends we provide to our BEETS students, and the continuation of our garden and cooking classes.

Our Story

Those of you who’ve met our Founder Barbara Wenger will have no doubt heard her favorite story to tell – how Koshland Community Park and Learning Garden came to be – and we love to keep sharing it, because it’s the kind that offers even more insight from the past with each telling.

Read on to learn about how Koshland Park and CommunityGrows were born together from a strong community and the support of a whole neighborhood – and about how we’ve spread our roots to empower its most vulnerable residents. 


“For six years my daughter attended the garden classes. [She] enjoyed getting to spend time at Koshland exploring the plants that grow there. It was the highlight of her week, and she talked about it a lot at home.”

— Shandra Butler, parent of a John Muir Elementary School alum

Creating Koshland

The story begins in 1973 after a fire swept through an apartment building on Page Street. Many residents wondered what would happen to the space where the once-large building now laid in ruins.

The Trust for Public Land, with the support of the generous Koshland family, stepped in and obtained the rights to the land. In the space, the Koshland family aspired to build a park to honor their father. With neighborhood residents’ input and support on the project, the park was opened in 1976 and was deemed the largest new park in San Francisco in over 40 years.

“I see firsthand the positive impact that their programming has on the students… [garden classes were] the most serene time of the day, where the students would find a calmness that can only be found by planting a seedling, measuring a pea pod, or filling a water can with a teammate.”

— Melinda Nokes, former Fourth Grade Teacher and Librarian at John Muir Elementary School


Working With the Community

As the ’80s and ’90s came along, violence and drug abuse rendered the park unsafe, and residents no longer felt comfortable accessing the space. But in response, neighbors and local organizations began working together to improve their community.

In this time CommunityGrows partnered with many groups in Hayes Valley, supporting the demolition of Central Freeway and the subsequent creation of Patricia’s Green Parkway, working with neighbors and community groups to renovate and reclaim parks (like the Rose-Page Mini Park), envisioning the Western Addition Peace Wall at Koshland Park with designs from residents and partners, supporting the construction and upkeep of the Buchanan Street Mall, and overseeing the renovation and transformation of the Koshland Community Park and Learning Garden in the early 2000s.

“To me, the garden represents a place for growth and new beginnings. I liked seeing how much progress plants make even if we don’t usually see them growing in reality. Like garden, our lives are constantly changing. We don’t recognize change in ourselves, but it’s there. We just need to look back to see how much we’ve grown.”

— 2016-2017 BEETS Alum


Youth Development Programs

Today, CommunityGrows’ mission is to cultivate healthy, eco-literate youth by growing gardens in low-income neighborhoods.

Through three (free!) interconnected programs, students ages 5–19 are able to learn in garden spaces and engage with the natural environment in the Environmental Education classes, they can put their gardening lessons to good use in the Seed-to-Mouth cooking and nutrition programs, and they can earn money while learning about green jobs and leadership skills by becoming members of the BEETS (Band of Environmentally Educated and Employable Teens) during their high school years.

CommunityGrows History Booklet

Timeline & Impact Booklet

Click here to download Barbara Wenger’s History of CommunityGrows booklet in PDF format!

Salad Days Are Back!


September is a month of beginnings – the beginning of the school year, the beginning of fall – and at John Muir Elementary School, it marked the beginning of our monthly Salad Days.

For those not familiar with Salad Days, the tradition began in 2015 as an initiative to give students access to fresh produce and to get them excited about eating healthy. Since John Muir students also participate in our Environmental Education classes, Salad Days allow them to be fully engaged in all the steps of the garden process: planting, cultivating, harvesting, and most importantly, eating!

Untitled design

Our founder Barbara Wenger says her earliest memories of Salad Day are of seeing CommunityGrows Garden Educators work to prepare the salads and then walk through the cafeteria during each grade’s shift. “The kids loved our Garden Educators and would always raise their hands for more salad!” In particular, students seem to really enjoy the apples and cucumbers mixed in the salads. The Italian dressing is also a crowd favorite with the kids and the teachers!


Adrian Almquist, Garden Programs Manager and Educator at John Muir, says that his favorite part about salad days are when kids come up to ask him for seconds.

Salad Days happen just once a month, but the youth we support are all about it. “It’s exciting when they get excited about salad,” says Melissa Tang, Director of Programs at CommunityGrows. “In the beginning of the school year, they aren’t always interested when you offer them salad. But then, towards the end of the school year, they are all in line with their trays.” It’s a great experience for both staff and students!

CommunityGrows is fortunate to have sponsors who generously donate to our monthly Salad Days. While students help grow produce through our Environmental Education classes, our Seed to Mouth programs create a bigger demand than our gardens can supply! This Fall, we want to give a shout out and say thank you to our partners at Heart of the City Farmer’s Market and our local Safeway on Webster Street for donating to our salad days. We deeply appreciate your help!

Moving Heaven and EARTH!

9.9.17-RP-Wkday_IMG_1971On Saturday, September 9, 2017, CommunityGrows kicked off its partnership with Rosa Parks Elementary by literally moving over 40 cubic feet of beautiful soil into the two school gardens. Parents and students, many from the Green Team of the PTA, began arriving around 10am and pitched in where needed. It was a warm and sunny day, with lots of sweat equity going on. 9.9.17-RP-Wkday_IMG_1978An hour into the workday, everyone came together in the lower garden to rehydrate and partake in the delicious spread brought by the parents.9.9.17-RP-Wkday_IMG_1988 One of our new CommunityGrows Advisory Board members, Jessica Jauw, came to help out with her nephew. 9.9.17-RP-Wkday_IMG_1999It was here that our new Rosa Parks Garden Educator, Anna Luberoff, emphasized the dire need to get all the soil moved by 1pm. Crews mobilized with five wheelbarrows, and by the end of the day, all soil had been brought into the gardens. Beds were shaped in an empty area 24 feet wide with 18 inch paths, and soil was added to all the plots. 9.9.17-RP-Wkday_IMG_1976Drip lines were moved, dead plants pulled, and soil broken up and rejuvenated. Weeds invading raised planter boxes and fruit trees were weeded. Strawberry and blueberry plants were transplanted into temporary pots. Raspberries were pruned. Sage was dug up and transplanted. Beds in the lower garden were weeded and soil added. Trash was picked up and paths were mulched with straw. It was an extremely ambitious day for our Garden Educator’s first workday!9.9.17-RP-Wkday_IMG_1994 Congratulations Anna for doing such an amazing job! 9.14.17-RP_IMG_2088-SFW9.14.17-RP_IMG_2083-SFWFor more photos from the day check out our Flickr Photostreatm here.

GAP Workday in Buchanan Mall


On Friday, September 8th, volunteers from GAP joined CommunityGrows in Buchanan Mall and the AAACC to help us get the gardens in shape for the Fall season.




We started our afternoon with a visit from two Citizen Film representatives. They shared the story of how the community came together to create, and now maintain, the Buchanan Mall street gardens.




For the first part of the workday, we divided and conquered. One group assembled student journals for the Rosa Parks garden classes, while the other group began working in Buchanan Mall.




The gardens looked healthier after some weeding and trash pickup.




And the water and deadheading went a long way towards beautifying the plots.




Not to mention how welcoming the area looked after the leaves had been swept and collected!




There was also some heavy lifting involved, not that it stopped Colleen! (full disclosure: the bag is filled with leaves).




Thank you so much to the GAP volunteers for taking part of their Friday to help us clean up and give the gardens a fresh new look for Fall! Check out our Flickr page for more photos.