Cleveland has been Brenda Rossario’s Garden of Eden since her childhood. “I love to be in the prayer garden where I sing and talk to God,” she says. After reading a book by George Washington Carver, she was inspired to make her gardens a place of worship and gratefulness. “God is so good,” she says. It is this goodness that she feels excited and blessed to share with others. Brenda first saw the goodness of gardening when she was five years old. “My mother let me go visit my grandmother and grandfather in Louisville, Mississippi, and they had acres, and acres, and acres of land,” she says. “And on their land they grew everything… watermelon, corn, sweet potatoes, collard greens, turnip greens… everything." One day, her grandfather put her in the wagon and took her to the “bottomland” where he showed her how things grew. From sweet potatoes to pears, they grew everything they had. “And it instilled something inside of me…. if my grandparents can all of this, so can we.” 

     With this grand revelation, five-year-old Brenda returned home relentlessly asking her mother to let her start a Cleveland garden of their own. “Please mama! I begged her.. and she got it for me,” she remembers. “And ever since then I’ve just wanted to be in the garden.” Each decade since, Brenda has been growing food, flowers, and relationships with the help of the city gardening programs. “The Summer Sprout Program has been so good all these years… over 30 years!” One of Brenda’s greatest joys is welcoming others into her garden to eat, to talk, and to pray. "There used to be a lot of crackheads and prostitutes in our neighborhood, and people that were down on their luck. That’s why you have to have food because they like to eat, too… corn, beans… you name it we had it. And when they needed something they just went in and ate.” Food is not the only thing Brenda is overjoyed to share. She would often clean up the street and plant flowers along the yard, and she'd often here young kids say "Miss Brenda don't live like that." She became a leader in beauty and reliability on the street. Kids and neighbors stop by and she offers to pray with them or for their parents. "And every once in a while we tell them about the Lord Jesus Christ and how he loves them." Conversation with God, public food forests, and flourishing community are not a new concepts to Brenda - all three are covered in the the first chapter of her Bible.

Brenda Rossario
East 61st Street Garden