Gaga Over Greens, Not Grammar

August 6, 2009 at 3:25 pm

Melissa Graham

Subtitle: Why Good Grammar Matters

I had the good fortune to attend the ribbon cutting ceremony of Growing Home’s Wood Street Farm yesterday. It was a gorgeous day with compelling speakers and a genial crowd. Getting caught up in the fun, I decided to try my hand at live-tweeting an event. Anyone who follows me received my rapid-fire updates reflecting upon the speakers and the information shared on the tour. There were a handful (okay, more than a handful) that didn’t quite make sense – partially formed thoughts that I had believed I was able to delete after re-reading. Apparently not. Good people, including @ediblechicago, @pivotalchicago and @organicnation, retweeted the more literate ones. I made a new friend @jeffreymdrake, a patent attorney who gets his CSA from Growing Home’s Wood Street Farm. Today, I got a nice thank you from @growinghome itself for the tour updates.

After a terrific lunch of hot dogs and pristinely fresh greens, I headed home feeling pretty good. I returned to my computer and opened up my TweetDeck. About an hour later, my computer squawked at me. (Anyone who uses TweetDeck knows it doesn’t tweet, but instead squawks).

From my most famous follower, a DM: “Hi Melissa, I find some of your tweets today perplexing @best”

My heart sunk into my stomach. I had been so tickled last week when said follower, whom I admire tremendously, had complemented me in a DM. With trepidation, I opened my history only to learn that the delete button in Twitterfon is just for show.

The irony of this situation is that I consider myself a grammar dork. After law school, I purchased and read for pleasure, The Deluxe Transitive Vampire: A Handbook of Grammar for the Innocent, the Eager and the Doomed. One of my all-time favorite movies is “Last Days of Disco,” which the Wall Street Journal referred to as “self-doubt set to grammar.” I recently coveted a tee-shirt that proclaimed “Good Grammar Costs Nothing.” I even had a love affair that began and ended because of a mutual affection for verb tenses.

To make it up to those of you who suffered through my nonsensical updates, I thought it best that I explain them through the photos I took at the event.

But, first, a little background for those unfamiliar with Growing Home. Growing Home is a social enterprise business based on organic agriculture that provides job training for homeless and low-income individuals. Growing Home was founded in 1992 by Les Brown, the director of policy for the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless. It acquired land in Chicago and Marseilles, Illinois under the McKinney Act, which offers Federal surplus land for organizations working with homeless individuals. Growing Home currently has three certified organic sites: the Les Brown Memorial Farm in Marseilles, the Su Casa Market Garden at the corner of 51st Street and Laflin and the Wood Street Farm in Englewood.

Growing Home’s vision is to help individuals transform their lives through agriculture. Its website states that:

“Since its inception, Growing Home has worked towards this by providing a transitional job program that lets previously-incarcerated and previously-homeless individuals prepare to re-enter the workforce not only by teaching job skills, but also by providing the chance to engage in what is for many a transformational experience. Our program is different from other workforce development programs because of our intense focus on the transformational possibilities inherent in learning to nurture and grow one’s own food.”

The Wood Street Farm is an amazing facility with three hoop houses on about 2/3 of an acre. Yesterday, Executive Director Harry Rhodes cut the ribbon on Chicago’s first certified organic, year-round, urban production farm. Speakers included Alderman Toni Foulkes and Patti Scudiero, Commissioner of the Department of Zoning, Land Use and Planning.


“Meeting space @growinghome and 10,000 lbs. of organic produce”

Growing Home wanted the tour to showcase the farm’s multi-use building designed by Chicago’s SHED Studio architects Rashmi Ramaswamy and Mike Newman. The building includes space for vegetable processing, offices, classrooms, and a meeting space for the community.

On this small farm, Growing Home expects to grow and harvest approximately 10,000 pounds of produce in 2009.


“@growinghome will have living fence with berries for neighbors to pick”

Phase 2 of the development plan includes an “edible fence” on the west side, which will include fruit trees and bushes.


“@growinghome alderman talking about the food desert around Wood St Farm”

Alderman Toni Foulkes, an inspiring speaker, talked about the food desert that surrounds the Wood Street Farm. At the groundbreaking ceremony, she noted that there was nowhere to buy a fresh tomato within three miles of the Farm.


“Commissioner of Land Use and Zoning urban ag big part of Chicago’s sust Initiative Eat Local, Live Healthy plan”

In fact, Growing Home actively participated in the drafting of the City of Chicago’s “Eat Local, Live Healthy” initiative, “which aims to increase the amount of local organic food production and improve access to healthy, environmentally-friendly foods to families in the Chicagoland area.”

“City plans to fully expand upon Wood St Farm to get more urban ag into Chicago.”

The Commissioner talked about the city’s plans for urban agriculture and how it plans to expand upon the work done at the Wood Street Farm, using it as a model to get more of its kind into the city’s food deserts.


“@growinghome bd member talking about the transformative effect of digging in the dirt to introduce testimonial”

Joann Blackman introduces an inspirational testimonial by farm intern, Jasmine Easter, and explains that Growing Home provides opportunities for its trainees to get their hands dirty and do the kind of hard work that transforms lives.


“@growinghome employs approx. 25 individuals in high need communities, growing home and community”

Harry Rhodes ends the program by explaining that Growing Home doesn’t just grow food at the Farm but also a community by bringing good food and jobs to Englewood, a community with high unemployment and crime rates.


“Taking a tour of @growinghome with my friend WeFarm’s Seneca Kern”


“@growinghome a polyculture uses buckwheat to regenerate soil”

Growing Home uses cover crops like buckwheat to improve the soil. It does not harvest the buckwheat, but instead plows it under to increase organic matter levels.


“Meditteranean (sic.) cucumbers are easier to digest”

A sharp eye on our tour noted the difference in appearance between the more common cucumber and the Mediterranean variety, which Seneca claimed is easier to digest.


“Climbing beans “trellised” on sunflowers @growinghome”

Not easy to see, but along these sunflower stalks are bean vines, just one of the many ways that Growing Home maximizes the space it occupies. The beans also help to fix nitrogen in the soil.


“@growinghome balance between what sells best @greencitymarket and what the Englewood community wants”

Growing Home has made a goal of selling ½ of what it grows at Wood Street within the Englewood community. Green City Market is a major outlet for Growing Home. The consumers who frequent Green City are far more food literate than many in the Englewood community. Growing Home is working to educate its community about seasonality and how best to use the produce it grows, including cooking demonstrations at the Englewood Farmers’ Market. In addition, while the baby greens are wildly popular at Green City Market (I’ve bought my fair share), the mustard greens are more popular in Englewood.


After the tour, Growing Home treated us to a lunch of hot dogs, veggie and beef, delicious tiny greens and cupcakes.


All in all a pretty good day especially after I broke down and bought the coveted tee shirt to remind myself that good grammar costs nothing (but the shirt costs between $16 and $23 plus shipping).

You can buy Growing Home produce at the Englewood Farmers’ Market, Green City Market or through its CSA. Growing Home also has volunteer opportunities to serve as a mentor, workshop leader, or to work on the farm.

For more pictures, visit Flickr


One Comment

  1. Gramma says:

    “My heart sunk into my stomach. I had been so tickled last week when said follower, whom I admire tremendously, had *complemented* me in a DM.”

    The sheer irony. ;)

    Seriously, the original tweets were great. Thanks for the elaboration, though.

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