This interview with Jeanne Nolan was a while in coming. We'd actually shot a piece back in March with one of her staff who attended the Urban Farmers Summit, but were asked to not use that piece then, but to set up some time to come up to the Edible Gardens. Well, it took six months (and my having reviewed her book From the Ground Up in the meantime!) to get this organized, but we could have hardly picked a nicer day on the very tail end of the summer to do an outside video.
Ms. Nolan, working with Green City Market, developed the "Edible Gardens" in Lincoln Park's "Farm in the Zoo" a number of years ago. At first it was only in the small patch where we shot this, and then it was able to expand into the large plot right in the middle of the facility. This isn't just a "garden demo", but a hands-on experience for the kids. Growing up in the city (like I did), and especially in high-rises, tends to make fruits and vegetables things that only happen at the grocery store, and plants in general being something from "out there", with no connection to one's daily experience. At the Edible Garden kids can pull out root vegetables, pick tomatoes, eggplants, and peppers, and even enjoy watermelons right off the vine. They also have a sections of aromatics, where they can smell vivid plant scents off the living herbs. To keep things visually appealing while the edible things are growing, there are also numerous flowering plants interspersed throughout to lend some color (and help attract pollinators).
This is a much longer interview than most we feature here, as Ms. Nolan provides a broad overview of gardening, the outlines of urban farming, a history of the project there, and answers some of Ed's questions regarding her business (The Organic Gardener), and her own background and philosophy ...
The Edible Gardens are open as long as the weather allows (on her site she says as late as mid-November), and are (like the Lincoln Park Zoo itself) free, so if you'd be interested in introducing some "cement-centric city kids" to how things actually grow, do plan a trip over there. It's open on Wednesdays and Saturdays from 10am-1pm, which is also when the Green City Market (a very large and attractive farmers' market) happens across the street in the park. There are also monthly workshops for adults throughout the summer, with one remaining on this year's schedule on October 19th.
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