Growing food, friendship and community

The Maxwell Street Community Garden is a one acre allotment garden on Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) land at 13th St. and Blue Island Ave. across the street from John M. Smyth IB World Elementary School.  An allotment garden provides a raised-bed growing plot to any individual, family or group in return for a monetary donation which covers the cost of buying soil, compost, garden tools, insurance, etc.  Gardeners can plant a variety of vegetable (or flowering) plants and are responsible for watering, weeding, and maintaining their plots throughout the growing season, along with harvesting produce.  In addition to the monetary donation, each gardener is expected to volunteer four hours of their time each month from April through October to help maintain the common areas of the garden.  The garden holds workdays twice each month where individuals can help with tasks like spreading wood chips, weeding perennial beds, building new plots, or fixing the garden’s gate. Maxwell Street Community gardeners range from the novice who want to try gardening for the first time to master gardeners with years of experience.

The garden was started by a group of neighbors in the Fall of 2012 with help from C4C. In 2013, the garden had more than 30 members and this year our membership has more than doubled to over 60 households.   The Maxwell Street Community Garden garden draws members from nearby University Village/University Commons, Little Italy, Pilsen and as far away as the South Loop and this year reached out to residents of the CHA’s Brooks Homes and Roosevelt Square residents to join.  They’ve hosted the Fosco Park football team and students from Urban Prep High School to help at the garden. One of our master gardeners has worked with students from Smyth Elementary School to teach students about gardening through hands-on activities.  Pre-schoolers planted seeds and hardy broccoli seedlings while third-graders planted a plot of over 40 sweet potato seedlings.

The annual potluck is held at the beginning of August at the garden.  Gardeners bring their favorite dishes to share. This year’s potluck had a professional cooking demonstration, kid’s activities, and provided a great time to  socialize with fellow gardeners.

The Roosevelt Square Community Youth Farm  at 1254 S. Loomis St. is a partnership between, the Roosevelt Square and ABLA community, Growing Power, Inc. and Related Midwest. This year, 37 teens were able to participate in a 6 week program learning hands on farming, healthy eating and job/career readiness skills. Teens worked hard to make sure weeds were stopped in their tracks and that the beautiful crops grew while also engaging each other in an ongoing dialogue about food, food access and how to better address food injustice in their community and abroad. Summer highlights include a Friday morning Farmer’s Market,  a trip to Roosevelt University and a visit to Growing Power’s Grant Park youth corp.

Growing Power, Inc.
Chicago Headquarters
3333 S. Iron St.
Chicago IL, 60608
(773) 376-8882 Milwaukee, WI: The Urban Agriculture Capital of the World.
Led by Growing Power, Inc. and Farmer, Founder and CEO, Will Allen.

Growing Solutions Farm is a new community garden in the Tri Taylor community. The Julie + Michael Tracy Family Foundation (JMTF) is dedicated to addressing challenges facing young adults with autism. With Rush University Medical Center providing oversight, the organization has created JMTF’s Urban Autism Solutions, which supports passage to fully integrated, urban community life.One of JTMF’s most popular initiatives is the “Growing Solutions Farm” – a 13,000-square-foot vocational garden in the Illinois Medical District. The garden serves to increase independence and productivity among young adults with autism while also teaching vocational horticulture skills. The program is offering paid summer employment for more than 20 young adults with disabilities.The majority of harvested produce will be donated to area food pantries, while other produce will be used for instruction in JMTF’s kitchen or sold at farm stands as the summer progresses. Be on the lookout for future farm stand dates. The garden is located on the corner of Campbell Parkway and Leavitt Street and visitors are welcome weekdays thru October 3.

Taylor Street Farms (TSF)  began in 2010 on cleared CHA land. Various organizations helped launch TSF.  Related Midwest and the then UVA Ex. Dir. Dennis O’Neill helped obtain permission from CHA, get a water permit, and gather a group of interested people. All work is done by TSF members. By 2014 the fenced areas for the 87 raised beds for the allotment garden fosters sharing and neighborliness on the Near West Side. The gardeners make donations of their own produce and from specially reserved plots for a local shelter. Close to 100 pounds of produce have been delivered thus far in 2014. The garden holds workdays for the general upkeep, and social potluck dinners.  The garden was begun to give local apartment dwellers and families a place to enjoy growing in a beautiful setting using sustainable practices. The garden attracts visitors from all over the world who notice the garden while they visit Taylor Street or their children at UIC.

The garden changed the neighborhood. New residents report moving to the Taylor Street neighborhood because gardens provides the ambiance they seek in a neighborhood where they wish to live and raise their children. Immigrants from 12 countries share love of the outdoors with fellow gardeners. Gardeners meet neighbors for the first time, families with young children meet retirees, CHA residents share stories about life before the ABLA homes came down with neighborhood newcomers, long-time residents of the neighborhood meet newcomers and graduate students. The garden helps build a sense of community in the neighborhood where a large university brings people from around the world to the Near West Side, where many people move annually. More people vote in the school elections because they meet interested parents of children in the public schools on the Near West Side.

TSF holds workshops about gardening for members and non-members. One year a guest speaker spoke about composting, another year TSF hosted a plant giveaway for a citywide group. Winter workshops on gardening help beginners plan their first garden, occasionally teachers arrange a visit for their class to learn about composting or garden maintenance.

TSF works with local organizations, institutions and businesses to foster community and longevity.  Local teachers arrange short visits with students for a lesson in vermiculture, composting, pest management and planting.  Members are helping the National Public Housing Museum garden effort, and local businesses, C4C and UVA have been abundantly helpful!