CLEVELAND — A community garden in Cleveland is celebrating 40 years of cultivating healthy habits. 

The Benjamin Franklin Community Garden in Old Brooklyn provides plots for neighbors to exercise their green thumbs by planting and harvesting produce. Families like the Lamirands are using the land to sprout an appreciation for healthy foods. 

The family is among about 160 gardeners planting in almost 200 plots on the five-acre site behind Benjamin Franklin Elementary School.

This year, every site sold out before the planting season started May 23.

“We do have a lot more younger people in here this year,” said Elicia Lamirand, a mom whose children have helped grow produce in the garden. 

Lamirand said she’s proud of her boys’ eagerness to try the produce they’ve grown. 

“I think they’ve explored and eaten more things than they would have if we haven’t gardened,” she said. 

Meanwhile, the kids are just proud to see the fruits of their labor. 

“It’s exciting,” said Louie Lamirand. “You know, it’s a joy to see it.”

Funds raised by the Benjamin Franklin Community Garden Committee go toward its upkeep and improvements. Last year, they lost out on some funding due to in-person events being canceled by the pandemic. They’re currently raising money to build a gazebo on the property, similar to the one that once stood on the garden grounds. 

Elicia Lairand is glad to see the community garden continue to cultivate her boys’ love of growing. 

“I think it’s important so they know where things come from,” she said. “You know, a lot of kids out there don’t realize that you can grow your own stuff. They think that it comes from a grocery store.”