Grow2Give

At this time of year, we often think of what we are thankful for, and give to others in need. With many food pantries and soup kitchens relying on donations or cheaply purchased leftover or unwanted food, fresh fruits and vegetables are a rare sight among staples like canned beans, rice and day-old bread. With a short shelf life, it’s not surprising: produce may be harvested at a farm days or weeks in advance of arriving at a distributor before it is transported again to neighborhood grocery stores. If it sits on the shelf too long, it’s more likely to spoil and be unsafe to eat, which often happens before the produce can make it to a pantry. Many gardeners choose to grow their own food for different reasons: to eat more seasonally, to show their children where food comes from, or to have the fresh, healthy food for dinner. However, some gardeners grow food for others who cannot, or for people who otherwise would not have access to fresh produce. Since the beginning, Peterson Garden Project has worked with volunteers who grow food for neighborhood pantries and soup kitchens in each of their pop-up community gardens. These volunteer gardeners not only have their own plot at the garden to tend, but also prepare, plant, water, weed and harvest produce in the Grow2Give plots between April and November every year. This huge undertaking requires coordinating watering schedules, frequent garden visits, and sometimes harvesting in the rain or cold to get the produce to the pantry during a narrow drop-off time. In 2015, our Grow2Give volunteer gardeners grew over one ton (2,000+ pounds) of fruits and vegetables just for our neighborhood pantries and soup kitchens: Howard Area Community Center in Rogers Park, Inspiration Café in Uptown, Lincoln...

We Can’t Say Thank You Enough...

April was Volunteer Month, and our volunteers came out in droves. Our first workday coincided with Gardens Open! on April 25. Volunteers braved a wet and chilly day to clear brush and weeds, fill beds, repair the Communication Stations and other tasks to bring the gardens back from their winter doldrums. (CPS Students showed up to help on opening day)   (Chilly gardeners fixed the communications station and cleaned up Global) City Year and Hyatt Hotel employees rebuilt the community area at Global! (With special thanks to Hyatt for donating all supplies) (City Year and employees of Hyatt Hotels rebuilt the Global Gardens stage) Eileen Fisher Highland Park helped us connect with Girls in the Game and YWCA Tech Gyrls to build the new beds at Hello!Howard (Girls have power (drills)!) We met a lot of new volunteers at the Employee Volunteer Fair sponsored by funder Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois. We can’t wait to work with them, and with you! Would you like to volunteer? Sign up for the volunteer newsletter here or watch the Classes and Events page for volunteer opportunities that work for...

Communicate Everything...

At Peterson Garden Project, we have a “five tricks” approach to volunteers: Communicate, Share, Listen, Assign, and Reward. The most important thing we do for volunteers is to communicate with them. The more pertinent information we share, the better every volunteer’s experience will be. Better information means less drama because people get uncomfortable when they don’t know what’s going on. We have lots of ways to communicate with our volunteers, our followers and our gardeners, and we’re busy creating more. We’ve learned that the more people who know that the gardens and the kitchen happen because volunteers, the better. We honor them everywhere—on Facebook, through our “Volunteer of the Week.” Even though most people chose not to volunteer, everyone will have seen communications dedicated to the subject. (200 people make Grow2Give happen, here’s the team from NEIU-Ground) Even new volunteers know what they will find, and what they should do before they ever walk through the door. To the uninitiated, an event can seem a bit intimidating. Open communication bares the mystery: what does a volunteer do? We let them know up front that it’s okay if they don’t know much about the workings of the agency– that’s our job. They are there for specific jobs, something you have shown them how to do. At Peterson Garden Project we use volunteers one at a time, and in big groups. We’ve got a couple of fantastic volunteer events coming up. Next weekend we’ll participate in the Cesar Chavez Day of Service at NEIU-Ground Garden (we’ll talk more about that in another post). (Volunteers from Ernst and Young painted the kitchen!) April is National Volunteer Month and we’ll be working on several special projects. Our wonderful partners Eileen Fisher is helping us bring Girls in the Game and Tech Gyrls from the YWCA to expand...

Come Grow With Us!

What is The Peterson Garden Project? The Peterson Garden Project (PGP) is a federal 501c3 not-for-profit organization based in Chicago, Illinois. For more information: www.petersongarden.org Our mission: To recruit, educate and inspire a new generation of home and community gardeners who want to gain control of their food supply, grow their own produce organically, and make urban food gardening the norm—not the exception. How do you accomplish your goals? We provide education, support and materials to teach people to grow their own food organically in an urban setting. Part of our activity includes the creation of Pop-up Victory Gardens so urbanites have a place to learn. What is a Pop-up Victory Garden? The original Victory Gardens of WW2 were created in all available open space – including private property. When the war was over, these spaces reverted back to their intended use. A modern Pop-up Victory Garden is a similar concept – unused privately owned urban space is converted to a community-based allotment garden where families and individuals can learn to grow their own food. The gardens all use organic methods and produce food only. Since we are not in a wartime situation, and most urban open land is highly desirable, a Pop-up Victory garden lasts only as long as the property owner makes it available which can be as little as two years. To learn more about WW2 Victory Gardens, watch our founder LaManda Joy’s Library of Congress lecture HERE. Who participates in a Pop-up Victory Garden? Each Pop-up Victory Garden community is made up of families, neighbors, volunteers, Illinois Extension Master Gardeners, local groups, city organizations, students and others interested in becoming part of a garden community and growing their own food organically. These gardens are large, lovely places and participants must...

Who are Those Kids at Vedgewater? by Xan Nelson Jul28

Who are Those Kids at Vedgewater? by Xan Nelson...

                  I spent part of my morning last week with several children who are learning about art and gardening at Green Scene, a free summer program at Vedgewater run by artist and storyteller Martie Sanders. Green Scene brings together young gardeners (ages 9-14) and seniors (ages 60 and over) in a unique intergenerational program. Participants plant and tend vegetables while exploring storytelling, theater, music and African dance. As part of Vedgewater’s Grow2Give™ program, Green Scene is donating its crops to Care For Real, Edgewater’s food pantry. I met the kids, as well as senior mentor Rosalind. According to Martie, Rosalind was originally going to be with us just Tuesdays and Thursdays, “but she enjoys it so much that she comes everyday.”                           Campers have been learning about urban gardening, and indeed, they knew about compost, mulch, pollinators, and more.  They’re also ace waterers, caring not only care for Grow2Give plots, but also helping out other gardeners by watering, weeding and cucumber beetle-squishing. Martie first ran the program at Gallery 37, the downtown summer jobs training program for the arts offered each year by the City of Chicago and After School Matters. When Martie found out that a Pop-up Victory Garden was opening right across the street from her apartment, she jumped at the chance to recreate the program in her own neighborhood. She secured modest funding from the city’s Neighborhood Arts Program, and arranged for Peterson Garden Project to donate the use of part of the Grow2Give beds in exchange for garden maintenance. (Gotta put those kids to work!) Seventeen neighborhood children and two seniors dug into their first week of gardening and theater...

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