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Uptown United at PGP

Thank you to Martin Sorge from Uptown United for this guest post! 

When the Peterson Garden Project team first approached me about building Victory Garden in Uptown, I knew it was a great idea. Uptown United serves as the nonprofit community and economic development agency for the Uptown community. We work with neighbors, local nonprofits, and small businesses in Uptown to build a strong, diverse, thriving neighborhood.

Why did we think that GrowUptown would be a success? First, we knew how wonderful PGP is, having worked with them on numerous initiatives, including their annual Plant Sale, which has been in Uptown twice now! Second, Uptown United created a small community garden nearly ten years ago, and it has been a huge success! In the mid-2000s there was a long-vacant, unkept lot on the 4600 block of North Winthrop Avenue that we wanted to improve, but in a way that brought our community together. Through may partnerships, we were able to work with Neighborspace to acquire the property. After significant remediation of the site, many volunteer hours from neighbors, landscape architects, and others, we built a small community garden—the Winthrop Family Historical Garden.

The Uptown neighborhood is known for its rich, dynamic history and its mingling of cultures and customs. In the pre-World War II days of restrictive land covenants and legal segregation, the 4600 block of North Winthrop Avenue was the only Uptown block available for African Americans to live. With the formal dedication of the Winthrop Family Historical Garden in Fall 2009, these residents’ stories continue as gardeners work together to plant and harvest the offerings of this community project. Gardeners include a diverse mix of community residents, businesses, and nonprofit organizations. The garden has been continuously tended since its founding, and the small community the garden has created continues to build community among gardeners.

Despite the success of the Winthrop Family Historical Garden, the garden is small. Only 16 plots are available for gardeners, and nearly all our gardeners return each year to tend their plots. We get dozens of calls and emails each spring asking if a plot is available. Unfortunately, we must turn folks away. We usually recommend that these aspiring green thumbs connect with PGP to find a plot and learn to grow their own food. Until now, PGP didn’t have any Victory Gardens in Uptown, and many gardeners weren’t willing or able to travel to another neighborhood to tend to their patch.

When PGP came to us to help plan GrowUptown, we knew that Uptowners were hungry to garden in their own community. 148 plots might seem like a lot of beds, but we knew that the garden would fill up quickly (and it did)! We’re hoping that GrowUptown will bring more Uptowners and other gardeners together to learn, grow their own food, and most importantly, build a strong community—that’s what it’s all about. We’ve seen it work on a small scale with our own community garden.

We also know that these gardens take a lot of resources to thrive. PGP takes the concept of a community garden to a higher level by offering trainings, hosting a cooking school, donating produce through their Grow2Give program, and offering scholarship plots at their gardens. The PGP team makes a huge impact for such a small organization. I’d encourage you to consider supporting their initiatives here in Uptown and beyond.