David Thornton &
Salaam Community Garden
In 2009, a group of like-minded members of the First Cleveland Mosque partnered to transform an abandoned lot into a garden for their families and community. David Thornton is one of those founding members who envisioned a beautiful greenspace across from the mosque.
Mr. Thornton grew up in homes where gardens were commonplace. His grandparents and parents always kept a garden where tomatoes, peppers and other fresh food was plentiful. As with most urban landscapes, soil debris and weeds were large hurdles. With OSU Extension’s expertise, the group began clearing and constructing raised beds. Much of this labor and the hard work that comes with maintaining a garden deters some of the neighborhood’s potential volunteers. Fortunately they have found joyful volunteers in the area’s youth. The garden serves as a place for faith-based lessons and an adventurous new world for today’s children. Mr. Thornton is surprised how many children do not know what a tomato looks like on the plant, and how cucumbers and peppers come to be. “One youth,” he recalls, “had never seen corn inside the hull (husk),” but only in a can or frozen bags from the grocery store.
Young gardeners like Abdul-Raqib Harris, who is ten years old, are thriving in the unique environment. Mr. Thornton says at first they would squeal and holler every time they saw a bug. Quickly though, the children begin to transform the chores into play, and the garden into their new playground. Abdul has been gardening at Salaam for four years now where he loves to eat the produce (especially cabbage) and chase snakes. His parting words of wisdom for anyone on the fence about joining a local garden : “It’s better for you than staying home and playing video games.”