For Ahmed Minkeson, the Albany Victory Garden is a green escape from the concrete chaos that oftentimes takes place just outside the walls.
“It’s very calm over here … the first time I walked into this garden, I could tell this was going to be a very accomplished garden,” said Minkeson.
A large part of the community garden is located near Quail and First streets, where there has been a concentration of violence and deadly shootings. During summer months when the violence is at its height, the garden becomes a grounding oasis for teens like Minkeson.
“It’s to get away from the problems while I’m at a young age and I don’t end up like everybody else,” said Minkeson.
The 13-year-old also goes for the camaraderie and mentorship.
Gregory Sheldon is the garden’s project manager, and through his foundation Eden Rose, more than 30 acres of vacant lots have been transformed into green spaces. He says the community reaps all the benefits through urban farming education, rehabilitation programs and fresh produce giveaways.
However, Sheldon is doing much more than just helping Minkeson grow his green thumb this summer. He said it started when Minkeson showed up to the garden looking to make some extra cash.
“Ahmed rolled up and was like ‘I’m looking for work.’ I said ‘OK, see me tomorrow and we will kick it.’ He said ‘No, I’m looking for work now! I want to work right now!’ ” Sheldon said.
Minkeson says he is already laying out the blueprint for his future.
“I’m going to become an engineer and I’m going to make something one day,” said Minkeson.
He’s hoping to buy engineering software and a laptop with the extra money he is making pitching in at the garden, and through a fund-raising effort.
“It was just a little clean-up, but I’m glad I found some work to do,” said Minkeson.
At the end of the day, it’s clear what Minkeson wants to grow most is his community.
“If we make enough money ... everyone can live as good as they want,” he said.