Get to Know Your Grow2Give Leaders – Land on Lincoln

Ellen harvesting lettuce and spinach.

Ellen Youniss  is one of Land on Lincoln’s Grow2Give leaders, learn more about her and Grow2Give below!

Tell me about yourself? What are your hobbies and interests?
I have been with the Peterson Garden Project since its first year back, which (I think) was 2010. I have been volunteering for PGP’s Grow2Give program since 2011. I would have helped water the beds at the original garden at Peterson and Campbell, and then when we opened Stars Garden in 2012, I became a full-duty G2G captain. Then Stars Garden closed, and I started volunteering as a G2G captain at Land on Lincoln in 2013.

I am computer/network engineer by day for work. Hobbies include biking, reading and gardening. After sitting at my desk most of my work day, I love being outdoors and in the garden.

What exactly is the work that you do with Grow2Give?
In year 1 of gardening with PGP, I had just moved from Little Village to the North Park neighborhood. My backyard is not great for growing veggies (too much shade) so my goal in joining PGP was to get a plot and grow food for my family, plus meet a few neighbors.

Why is it you decided to work with Grow2Give?
PGP had lots of ideas and lots of work that needed to be done, so I jumped in and helped out where it was needed.

Nanna Cross, another G2G captain, with Keith, who works in the kitchen at Inspiration Cafe, with freshly harvested lettuce and spinach.

How has working with a program such as Grow2Give changed you, or made you a better person?
Community gardening and specifically growing food for local food depositories is perfect because I love gardening, but I feel I also feel I am helping to build community, teach others how to garden and grow their own food, contribute to Chicago, and help the poor. It is my little way of pushing back against the current environment of conservatism, individualism, and climate-change denial.

All food grown in the G2G beds at Land on Lincoln is contributed to Inspiration Cafe in the Uptown neighborhood. Inspiration Cafe uses the produce we donate to serve meals in its kitchen to anyone from the neighborhood, mostly the poor or homeless.

And I have become a better gardener in the process too. Since I started logging, our yields have grown each year.

  • 2013 season: 133 pounds
  • 2014 season: 256 pounds
  • 2015 season: 319 pounds
  • 2016 season: 409 pounds
  • 2017 season: We are harvesting for the first time tomorrow evening. We have an abundance of spinach, collards and herbs ready to harvest. We have also planted tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, potatoes, sweet potatoes, and squash, which we will start harvesting about 8 weeks.

G2G interviews conducted by Mitch Carlstrom.