What happens when you have a vacant lot in a city? Rather than leave the space empty, North Chicago is turning vacant lots into pop-up gardens. According to a Nation Swell article by Kathleen O’Brian, “North Chicago Vacant Lots Turn Into Pop-Up Gardens,” a local resident, Lamonda Joy, has taken these lots and transformed them into gardens. The great thing about these pop-up gardens is that they are being used to grow organic food.
The Peterson Garden Project is the largest of these gardens. The inspiration for such gardens was taken from “Victory Gardens.” During World War II, many foods were rationed, and transportation shortages due to the war effort made it difficult to harvest foods and move them to markets. As a result, individuals were encouraged to begin their own victory gardens – gardens where they would grow their own fruits and vegetables. When a backyard or farm wasn’t available, individuals used empty city lots and even city rooftops. Neighbors would pool their resources and form cooperatives where they would share the work and the fruit (and vegetables) of their labors.
The reason these gardens are called “pop up” gardens is that they are not meant to be permanent. The gardens are tended for a few years, and then the space can be used for something else while the beds are picked up and moved into another space.
The program provides food to share with others and has a number of programs interested persons can get invovled with!
- Grow2Give™ is a volunteer-run program where fresh produce is grown and then shared with others at food pantries or nutrition programs chosen by the community.
- Senior/Senior is a program uniting senior citizens with high school seniors to grow food and cook together while sharing stories.
- Fresh Cooking and Fresh Fridays teaches nutrition and skills for the kitchen
- Kids in the Kitchen helps kids build skills and confidence with cooking and growing their own food
- Scholarships and In-Garden Program Partnerships – 10% of the garden space is set aside for scholarships for individual families and food growing programs
- Cooking classes
- Garden education
In addition, the Peterson Garden Project is involved with these joint efforts:
- Edible Treasures at The Field Museum (With The Field Museum of Chicago, Seed Saver’s Exchange, and Jewell Events & Catering)
- Global Garden (With Seed Saver’s Exchange and Slow Food Chicago) including plants from the Ark of Taste
How you can get involved with the Peterson Garden Project:
- Become a Member – For $85 you receive education, admission to events, some supplies, and a 4’x8′ gardening space
- Purchase and read Fearless Food Gardening in Chicagoland (Associate link) and learn more about how to plan your garden in Chicago
- Purchase and read Start a Community Food Garden: The Essential Handbook (Associate link) and learn how to start a food garden in your community
- Follow the “We Can Grow It” blog and Facebook page to learn more about the program; share posts with your followers
- Watch The Garden Minute to learn more about gardening
- Participate in classes and events offered by the Peterson Garden Project
- Volunteer – you can volunteer to help build new gardens, tend Grow2Give™ plots, staff events, teach gardening or cooking classes, manage the gardens, or perform music at events. They are always looking for people with a variety of skills to help out.
- Donate to the Peterson Garden project
- Host a team building event through the gardens
What will you do to get involved with the Peterson Garden Project? Post your thoughts in the comments section.