Poised between the Eisenhower Expressway and the western suburbs, the resident of Chicago’s west side neighborhood Austin have found a wonderful way to directly turn their rough neighborhood around. It’s not through tougher law enforcement, nor through everyone packing heat. It’s by turning the empty lots into vegetable gardens.
The Chicago Tribune ran an article on this.
Things that stood out in the article for me:
• “Chicago has about 15,000 city-owned parcels, most of which are vacant, said Molly Sullivan, director of communications for the Department of Community Development.”
(Milwaukee has about 3,000 empty lots, while Detroit has an overwhelming 100,000 empty lots. Fortunately, Detroit Mayor Ken Cockrel Jr. is interested in turning many of those empty lots into urban farms. Milwaukee has taken a mildly pro-active stance with turning lots into garden spaces as well.)
• “You can change from looking at unemployment and looking at what people don’t have to looking at what people have. When you show people growing their own food, everyone eats,” [said Harry Rhodes, executive director of Growing Home, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping ex-convicts and homeless people rebuild their lives through urban farming.] “When you go in and you see green—you see flowers, you see gardens—it changes a whole community.”
The proof is in the pudding: Urban gardening changes communities for the better.