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Blues songstress Twyla Birdsong and the Hunter Park gardens

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My family moved here from Michigan City, Indiana, when I was 5. Every house we rented was on the east side.

My aunt would always bring us to Hunter Park and her daughter to play in the pool. This is a nice park where kids have room to play. There is a tennis court. My mom used to bring us to play tennis and we would watch her. I’ve spent many great summers here.

I first learned about the garden because of the Allen Street Market.

They do a lot of wonderful work for the community. One day, my girlfriend invited me to a yoga class there. Not only was it free, but they would give you a $5 voucher to use Wednesday at the market with the farmers and vendors coming in with fresh produce.

I love how they look out for the community like that.

You can buy something that is “organic” from the store, but if you don’t have a hand in it yourself, you usually don’t know what’s in there.

I still want quality food.  It is cheaper to raise it yourself and come to gardens like this. Now I’m a grandmother, so it is even more important to me to have this knowledge and wisdom to pass on to my children to be a more informed consumer.

Being here made me think that nobody seeks to be unhealthy. Everyone wants to feed their children, but when you are low income, you have to make decisions to feed everybody.

Sometimes when you don’t know, you tend to reach for the easy things to do that.

When I got out of the military and saw convenience stores in our neighborhood, the people on welfare and food stamps went to the party store where it cost more. There, you’ll spend all your stamps to feed your family and will become unhealthy.

So that’s why having a neighborhood garden is good because they don’t have to ship it in from a long distance with pesticides and preservatives in.

Instead, the community can come and pick produce here. When I was in the yoga program, I used to always pick berries here in the summertime. They have raspberries, blueberries and all kinds of fruits and vegetables.

Whenever I would have anxiety or feel unsure because the world becomes different or changes, I ride through the east side and it would be an anchor and homing beacon for me to bring my spirit back to “It’s OK.” It calms me to be here. It may not be the prettiest. I lived in the suburbs and prettier places, but this place is home and it feels good.

(This interview was edited and condensed by Dennis Burck. If you have a recommendation for “Favorite Things,” please email dennis@lansingcitypulse.com.)

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