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Growing in Newark

Find out how one garden can help an entire community grow

Meet the students who transformed part of their school into a flourishing garden – and find out how the time spent outside transformed them too.

There’s no shortage of smart, talented young kids in Newark, NJ. However, when you live in a food desert where healthy foods are scarce and the environment offers limited opportunities, there is unfortunately a shortage on chances for kids to grow into their full potential. That’s why L.L.Bean and The Trust for Public Land are teaming up with local high school, West Side High, to build a student-run garden and greenhouse on the campus.

With this new project in motion, the lifeless concrete area behind West Side High will be transformed into a flourishing living garden managed and run by the students themselves. Not only will this exciting project bring healthier foods into the community it will give students entrepreneurial skills to help them reach new heights. In addition to learning invaluable lessons and helping the community, the garden will also provide quality time outside so they can get their hands in the dirt and connect with nature. Through this garden, West Side High students will be able to experience the positive effects of time outside, connect with their peers, and have fun.

Leading this effort is the principal and former graduate of West Side High, Akbar Cook. For too long, Principal Cook has seen the kind of adverse effects living in a food desert can have on the youth in his school and city. So, he decided to do something about it. His vision for a place outside where kids can work, learn, grow, and help their community is just one of the many ways he strives to enrich the lives and well-being of his students, he calls his babies. Thanks to his passion and dedication, that vision is about to become a reality. And we couldn’t be more pleased to be a part of it.

Learn more about our partnership with The Trust for Public Land.

BEHIND THE SCENES #1: Principal Cook

Join Principal Akbar Cook as he talks about what’s in store and why a garden is so important to the community.

BEHIND THE SCENES #2: From Pavement to Plants

Join Head Farmer Cesar Presa as he shows us how you can turn the unlikeliest of spots into a growing garden.

BEHIND THE SCENES #3: Meet the Crew

Meet the crew capturing this transformation on film and hear from them why this project hits so close to home.

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