PLANTING A SEED
By planting green playgrounds all across Washington, D.C., Rebecca Lemos-Otero is inspiring a new generation of gardeners.
Rebecca Lemos-Otero was working as an after-school counselor at a Washington, D.C., community center when she was tapped to manage a small vegetable plot with the kids. “We were so excited about our first tomato plant that we named it Michael Jackson,” she says. “For kids who had little access to nature, gardening felt like magic.”
That sense of wonder eventually led to her founding City Blossoms, a nonprofit organization that creates gardens for schools and neighborhoods in low-income areas (cityblossoms.org). Since 2004 she and her staff have helped install more than 50 plots in and around D.C., while also advising organizations like The Nature Conservancy on gardens throughout the country. “Having a lively green space in an urban area can be huge,” she says. “It creates a way for kids to be outside doing something productive and beautiful.”
She has also seen how the harvest can go beyond crops. Through City Blossoms’ educational programs, youth learn about nutrition and activism and gain job skills through gardening. Not that Rebecca loses sight of the fact that these are spaces for kids. “I don’t think children’s gardens should be precious,” she says. “Kids should be able to throw a seed anywhere they want and see what pops up.”