One of the most impressive exhibits at the 2013 Chicago Flower & Garden Show was the “urban garden” set-up presented by the Peterson Garden Project. They had “mini gardens” in old tires, nested buckets, etc., as well as raised bed plots with growing produce. Their specialty seems to be in “Pop-Up Victory Gardens”, which are ”short-term organic community food gardens – on unused urban land”. One of the differences between what the Peterson group does and a lot of other “urban farms” is that they don’t offer a commercial product, but enable individuals to “farm” part of one of their plots and keep what they grow (in 2012 they had over 2,400 people gardening in 650 plots around the city, including a demo garden at the Field Museum).
The Peterson Garden Project (named for their initial location up on Peterson Ave. on the north side of Chicago) was inspired by their founder, LaManda Joy, stumbling over information on the WW2 Victory Garden movement …
It’s true that most people today don’t know how to grow food, but it’s a challenge we’ve met before. During WWII Chicagoans started 1,500 community gardens, known as Victory Gardens. And more than 250,000 people started home gardens, too. They did it all in four short years, and 90% of the people had never gardened before.
We ended up speaking with PGP Leadership Team member Maribeth Brewer, who gave us an over-view of their mission and activities:
As noted above, the Peterson Garden Project is a rather extensive operation, with seven sites around the city, many hundreds of gardening plots, and over three thousand people involved between their volunteer force and the folks farming the plots. They have many volunteer opportunities open (although it appears that their slots for gardening for the early season are already on a wait-list basis), and have an event upcoming, a “Volunteer Soiree”, next week which appears to be a forum where you can find out what you might be able to help out with.
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