It was the spring of 2009. We all shared a concern about where our economy was going. The Northfield Township Food Pantry's needs were the same as many others: increasing, as were people's desires to have fresher and environmentally cleaner vegetables on their dinner tables. There were delays in starting plots in the Northbrook Village garden.
St. Giles had a visiting seminarian who had come to Chicago after learning how to grow veggies in sand, a bit of home-made dirt and a dribble of water out West. And we had a lot of open space that hadn’t been trod upon in years.
We scored a trifecta ~ a need, a resource and a team to link the two. The garden started with 12 10’ x 10’ plots in 2009, probably about 60/40 between members of St. Giles and the community at large. One was specifically dedicated to the Food Pantry, and a lot of produce from other lots was shared with them.
A few details. We found out when digging the outer trenches that you REALLY DO NEED TO CALL JULIE FIRST. We didn’t cut anything off, but came close. And, between members of St. Giles and the community at large we learned that preparing a lot of open space that hadn’t been trod upon in years for vegetable plots can cause sore muscles.
People from around Northbrook started with raw land, staked out the borders, planned the plots, dug the trench, roto-tilled the plots, poured the concrete, sunk the posts, put up the fence, installed a critter-safe gate, co-ordered stuff ranging from vermiculite to (hopefully well-composted) manure to truckload of wood chips, and did whatever else we think we needed. And then we all kneeled down and… started preparing and planting our own lots.
And we drew closer!
In 2010 we added eight more plots. People who heard us talk about the good stuff of gardening ~ fresh air exercise, planting and reaping, and then celebrating the harvest ~ came on board. One was tilled by a Brownies troop.
We are now up to 30 plots, one of the largest in the area. We received almost 100 “leftover” starters for tomatoes and green peppers this year, and people stepped forward to prepare the plots, plant, maintain and harvest these gifts. Much went Northfield Township, and some went to the Tomato Project at the Methodist Church for their dinner that benefited … the Northfield Township Food Pantry. There is strength in many.
And see how a group of people from various congregations around Northbrook developed a resource that is now a standard for others at the Hunger Resource Network.