ML - Michigan Avenue

2015 - Issue 2 - Late Spring

Michigan Avenue - Niche Media - Michigan Avenue magazine is a luxury lifestyle magazine centered around Chicago’s finest people, events, fashion, health & beauty, fine dining & more!

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Page 11 of 139

photography courtesy of the chicago history MuseuM Two women erect a Victory Gardens emblem on their plot in the garden at Gladys and Leamington Avenues in Chicago's Austin community in May 1943. During the Second World War, to help prevent food shortages, the US govern- ment encouraged citizens to grow their own fresh produce. Nearly 90 percent of Chicagoans had never gardened before, but in 1943, the victory garden move- ment bloomed across the nation—and Chicagoans led the way, planting an estimated 1,500 community gardens. "Chicago was really organized," says LaManda Joy, a master gardener who started the victory garden–inspired Peterson Garden Project in 2010 to plant pop- up gardens on the city's North Side. It was during WWII, notes Joy, that the city began offering educational programs while increasing media attention with newspaper articles and recorded radio broadcasts to promote urban gardening. Decades later, Joy wanted to preserve the same movement. "I kept driving by this empty lot on Peterson and Campbell in West Ridge, and I joked that I developed a medical condition called 'lot lust,' where I see an empty lot and I want to put a garden there." Upon discovering a photo of the same lot serving as a WWII vic- tory garden, the Budlong Woods resident realized she wanted to use the space to create her first teaching garden. "People are really excited to build gardens," enthuses Joy. "It's a community project. We do it together." Now in its sixth season, the Peterson Garden Project works with neighbors, property owners, aldermen, and community centers. To date, it has created eight pop-up victory gardens comprising 1,039 plots and boasts 1,000 volunteers and almost 4,000 gardeners (some of whom, Joy notes, have assumed the title of "block captains," as victory gardeners did during WWII). The nonprofit organi- zation has also partnered with Grewbie 101, which teaches gardening basics; Senior/Senior, which connects senior citizens with high school seniors; and cook- ing classes on everything from Southern Indian cuisine to seasonal soups. Like the victory gardens that offered platforms to support the war effort, Joy values the dialogue the Peterson Garden Project continues to provide for the community. "Today, a lot of people are afraid of our food system," she says. "They are worried about contamination, or they're worried about GMOs [genetically modified organisms]. To me, the ability to use a piece of land and gather people together to solve their problems is a direct legacy of what hap- pened 72 years ago." ma GardeninG for Good In World War II-era ChICago, loCal resIdents supported the natIon's efforts by plantIng vICtory gardens around the CIty, InspIrIng a movement that lIves on today. by katina beniaris 10 FRONT RUNNER

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