MILWAUKEE— The Milwaukee Recreation Department is getting older adults involved in their urban gardening program with the goal of creating more healthy food options.

Sharon Durski planted tomatoes as part of the program.

She comes to the Milwaukee OASIS Center once a week to help out with the garden for older adults.

“It’s been five weeks. We planted radishes, lettuces, beans, and squash,” said Durski.

Durski said tending to this garden is therapeutic.

“Something about digging in the dirt and watering things and watching them grow and then they’re yours. You’re contributing,” said Durski.

Planting at the OASIS Center is also a way for her to build camaraderie with other older adults.

“It started everything when I retired, then it was the fear of what am I going to do and so oasis had this and now I get people I get to do things with and the fun we have,” said Durski.

Tatiana Gritsevsky is a Naturalist. She serves as an instructor for the urban gardening program.

Gritsevsky said they will soon see the results of their hard work.

“Things like tomatoes and cucumbers. We won’t be harvesting until later in the summer or July or August and even into September. But these herbs that we have, the ones that have been here for a year, we can start harvesting them,” said Gritsevsky.

Willie Mitchell is the Supervisor for active older adult programs at the Milwaukee Recreation Department.

He said urban gardening also provides an economic benefit.

“As you know, when you go to the grocery store, the most healthy foods are usually more expensive. So, it’s an opportunity for them to grow those vegetables here as well,” said Mitchell.

Durski also liked the idea of knowing exactly where her food comes from.

“We get most of our vegetables from other places. We don’t know what conditions they are grown in. We don’t know about the pesticides or anything used. We know what’s here. We don’t use pesticides. We use natural fertilizer. It’s right here. You don’t have to go to the store,” said Durski.

As she finished planting, it reminded her that this garden is a way to connect with both the community and the earth.