Victory Gardens: Part Two (2010)
Craving a little bit of green space? The Yarden‘s Lamanda Joy is thinking about you. She’s reviving a traditional vegetable garden on the site of an original 1942-1945 Chicago victory garden at the grassy corner of Peterson and Campbell.
The original victory gardens were a result of pooling resources and boosting moral during the world wars. Resources were reserved for the war effort and supporting the war effort meant armies needed to be fed. Foods like sugar, butter, eggs, and coffee were rationed for citzens by the government. At the time labor and gasoline were in short supply and both are needed to grow food on farms and to transport produce to customers. It’s estimated up to 20 million Americans planted vegetables in back yards and empty lots in the name of patriotism.
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The Peterson Garden is scheduled to break ground on May 24 (following a fundraiser on May 20). That’s less than a month to get gardeners, volunteers, and supplies for their 140 24-square-foot plots off the ground. Literally. Breaking with tradition these new plots will be raised beds and LaManda’s encouraging gardeners to grow some of the vegetable varieties that were grown in the original Victory Garden. It’s estimated 60% of those seeds are available today.
The Peterson and Campbell location gets plenty of daylight, though a bit of afternoon shade may hit the west side of the garden by afternoon. Plans are in the works for access to water, shared tools, vacation helpers, and other logistical issues. A few folks working on the project are Master Gardeners so there’ll be plenty of information for newbies. There’s a learning curve on trying to grow vegetables on a 6′x4′ raised bed (think vertically!) and only those with plots will have access to the space as the garden is surrounded by a high chain-link fence and gardeners will be sharing a padlock combination.
A Peterson Garden space requires a committment to growing organically and visits (at least!) 2-3 days a week. Families or restaurants without the time to tend their garden can sign up for Farm 4 You, another option for those who want access to the produce and a chance to learn about seed diversity, urban gardening, and Chicago history.
Follow the Peterson Garden on Facebook (Peterson Garden Project) and Twitter.
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There are other Chicago community garden spaces available and a good resource Neighborspace.
A bit of Chicago history from a flyer I found while thrift store shopping: “In 1973, Chicago’s Department of Human Services sponsored the nation’s first city-operated neighborhood farm program, providing city-owned land for Chicago residents to grow vegetables in their own neighborhoods. This very popular Chicago program expanded rapidly each ensuing year from 21 sites in 1973, to over 1,900 sites in 1980.”
I’ve also been following food systems planner Lynn Peemoeller’s blog about urban agriculture (Berlin, Lisbon, etc). It’s said that waiting for a kitchen garden space (potager) in Paris may take three years. Also, while visiting relatives in the former Yugoslavia I learned it was common for those who’d moved to urban centers to keep their family homes in the villages as “vikendice” (there’s the English word “weekend” in there) which are similar to the Russian dacha. The rural land was used to grow fresh vegetables and fruit that they didn’t have space in their urban apartments. The fruit was, I swear, mainly used to make brandy. And jam. Talk about moral boosters!