Text by Stacy Stern, Or Tzedek Advanced Activism 2013 participant, photos by Or Tzedek interns at Growing Home.
Last week at Or Tzedek’s Advance Activism Program, Or Tzedek Advanced Activism participants Meirav Malter, Madison Reisler, and Stacy Stern (as well as staff member Miriam Grossman) interned at Growing Home, Inc. in Englewood.
Growing Home is a community organization focused on, “empowering people and communities through the development of Chicago’s first USDA-Certified Organic, high-production urban farms. Growing Home seeks to operate, promote, and demonstrate the use of organic agriculture as a vehicle for job training, employment, and community development.”
Supervised by Sonya Harper, Growing Home’s market outreach coordinator, Meirav, Madison, and Stacy harvested produce, learned about food deserts and urban agriculture and worked at Growing Home’s community farm stand. On second day of the internship, Sonya led a tour of Englewood’s community gardens and spoke about the neighborhood’s assets and challenges, history and future.
Sonya Harper shows us the new community garden at her alma mater, Robert Lindblom Math and Science Academy. This school was formerly known as Robert Lindblom Technical High School and is a city of Chicago landmark.
Sonya takes Meirav, Miriam and myself to another blooming community garden in Englewood at 61st and Princeton.
Sonya explains the goals and purpose of this community garden. By creating this garden and many others, Sonya hopes to beautify the Englewood neighborhood, making it a safer place by replacing the abandoned lots with gardens. These gardens can serve the dual purpose of providing fresh food to the community and serving a place for neighborhood gatherings.
As you can see, the Sherwood Peace Association Community Garden aims to create a safe space for the community to gather.
Two sides of one street, two sides of Englewood: on the left, you can see the Sherwood Peace Association Community Garden. This space was previously an empty lot, but was converted into this beautiful community garden. In contrast, the right half of the street is one of the 2,500 city-owned vacant lots in the Englewood neighborhood. Sonya hopes that most empty lots can soon be converted into community gardens. Last week she was at City Hall lobbying so that residents can take ownership of the lots on their street. Therefore, people will be take care of the lot (and grow veggies!), instead of the land simply going to waste.
While driving around in Englewood, Sonya pulled off onto the side of the road to show us this beautiful mural detailing the migration of African Americans from southern states to northern cities like Chicago.
This was our (including Sonya’s) first time visiting Precious Blood, a community garden attached to Second Chance High School. It was inspirational to hear how this school gives students the chance to succeed academically and uses gardening as a way to engage their teens. Similarly, Growing Home gives the opportunity to adults who were previously incarcerated or unemployed to get job experience for their resume, as well as the farm and work skills for future employment.
We absolutely fell in love with these murals that decorated the fences surrounding the Precious Blood Gardens. We were most inspired by this particular one, a plea to end violence in Englewood. This gardening program and mural is the first step of many.
The following day after the tour of Englewood’s community gardens, Meirav, Madison, Miriam and I learned how to work the farm stand at Growing Home. Madison and I helped spray the veggies to keep them cool in the heat. Growing Home had an incredibly successful day at the farm stand!
Sonya brings out fresh carrots and spinach to sell at the farm stand!
A photo of the Growing Home volunteers from Or Tzedek: (from left) Madison, Meirav, Miriam, and me!