Garden blossoming in Westgate - Albuquerque Journal

Garden blossoming in Westgate

From left, Julie Jaynes, New Life Homes outreach coordinator, SWOP community organizer Joaquin Luján, Project Food for the Hood manager Travis McKenzie and former House Rep. Eleanor Chavez, examine one of the new raised garden beds at Glen Cheney Apartments in Southwest Albuquerque. (ROSALIE RAYBURN/JOURNAL)
From left, Julie Jaynes, New Life Homes outreach coordinator, SWOP community organizer Joaquin Luján, Project Food for the Hood manager Travis McKenzie and former House Rep. Eleanor Chavez, examine one of the new raised garden beds at Glen Cheney Apartments in Southwest Albuquerque. (ROSALIE RAYBURN/JOURNAL)

A project that has brought gardening skills to children in Southwest Mesa schools has now blossomed in a corner of the Westgate neighborhood.

Raised bed gardens at the Glen Cheney Apartments at 98th Street and Benavides are an extension of the “Project Feed the Hood” initiative that has introduced kids at Edward Gonzalez Elementary and Truman Middle School to the educational experience of growing food from seed.

“We see ourselves as trainers,” said Joaquín Luján, a community organizer with the Southwest Organizing Project, a nonprofit that works on economic and social justice issues.

SWOP collaborated with the Westgate Heights Neighborhood Association and NewLife Homes, the nonprofit affordable housing developer of the Glen Cheney Apartments, to bring the garden concept to the apartment complex.

Former House Rep. Eleanor Chavez helped secure a $10,000 grant from Bernalillo County to establish four 12-foot-long by 3-foot-wide wood-framed raised beds. Travis McKenzie, who manages Project Feed the Hood for SWOP, will be the trainer.

Beginning Saturday, McKenzie plans to hold regular workshops to teach neighborhood residents how to choose seeds, plant, tend the soil and harvest. He hopes to grow peas, carrots, radishes, lettuce and beets in the raised beds.

“It will be a community garden and a training center,” Luján said.

SWOP has established similar gardens in Albuquerque’s International District. Luján hopes the Glen Cheney garden can be the model for other community gardens and the catalyst for establishing a farmers market selling fresh produce in the Southwest Mesa.

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