Friday, July 18, 2008

Greening Neighborhoods

I recently spent a few hours visiting several community gardens and an apiary (i.e. beehives) in North Lawndale, Chicago. There's nothing like a garden on an old industrial lot or under the "L" to inspire hope. And the growth potential is huge if the gardens can connect up with markets, restaurants, and other buyers.

A few reminders to myself:

1) Community gardens are part of a long-term struggle to take back and improve neighborhoods. They are beacons of progress and hope as well as a source of vegetables and flowers.

2)Gardens serve lots of functions: community building, summer jobs, school projects, neighborhood beautification, intergenerational mentoring, public places, and community economic development

3) How to take community gardens to the next level in terms of size, operations, markets, and replication is a challenge. Who has the business plan for this?

4) Collaboration and working together underpin the best of community building. Going green, however, can spur competition, not cooperation.

5)Like so many things, it's the grassroots neighbors and families who advocate, tend, and protect the gardens. More people need to get into the equation -- but ongoing leadership is key.

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