LaManda Joy is founder and president of the Peterson Garden Project. She is also a close friend (and exhibitor) of the Chicago Flower & Garden Show. With the New Year approaching, LaManda wanted to share how her past resolution turned into a citywide outreach program.
In 2008 I started saying that I wanted to teach everyone I met to grow their own food. Seriously. It became a mantra for me and my blog, TheYarden.com.
For New Year’s Eve 2009 I vowed to get real (vs. just writing about it) and actually teach 10 people how to grow their own food, hands-on. A few months later, in April of 2010, I started the Peterson Garden Project, which, going on five years later, has now taught hundreds of people to grow their own food. (To learn more about PGP, click HERE.)
In 2011 I met Tony Abruscato at a radio interview for that year’s Chicago Flower & Garden Show. I wanted to talk about Victory Gardens. He wanted to talk about the Show. He won. But, afterwards, I got to ask him an important question, “Why don’t you have more info about growing vegetable gardens at the show?” In my mind it was a polite question. As he recounts the tale, I “browbeat” him. (Me? Never!)
Late in 2011 we met to talk about the 2012 Show and he said, “Remember when you asked me about more vegetable gardens at the Show? You’re right. It is very important and I have an idea for that…” This conversation turned into the Peterson Garden Project having our “Today’s Victory” exhibit in the 2012 Show—complete with full grown plants trucked in from Alabama (thanks to Bonnie Plants). Our participation in the Show included the story of WW2 Victory Gardens in Chicago, a “backyard reuse/recycle garden” and a demonstration of our Pop-up Victory Garden template that we have in numerous locations throughout the North Side of Chicago.
We learned from that experience that lots of people really want to grow their own food (hooray!) but not all of them have access to a community garden or someone who can teach them. So, in light of that experience, we vowed that for 2014 we would teach the entire city to grow their own food. Yes, you read that right. You know what Virgil says, “fortune favors the bold.” And, why not? From my Victory Garden research I learned that during WW2, 90% of the Chicago Victory Gardeners had never gardened before—and yet they learned to lead the nation and feed the city during dark times!
One of the ways they did it was with very simple, Chicago-based instructional material. That inspired a new book we’ve written called Fearless Food Gardening in Chicagoland that is now available HERE.
And you’ll be seeing more of it at our exhibit at the 2014 Chicago Flower & Garden Show, too. (Plus lots of seminars by other fabulous food gardening educators.)
The theme of the 2014 show is “Do Green. Do Good.” Hopefully this post will come out in time for you to make some of your own “trouble-making” resolutions that involve doing good. Maybe it’s growing your own food or teaching others! Whatever your “Do Green. Do Good.” resolution is, together, the Chicago Flower & Garden Show and Peterson Garden Project would like to show you how.
And, a piece of parting advice: be careful what you wish for.
See you this spring!
Be sure to visit LaManda and the Peterson Garden Project’s exhibit at the upcoming Chicago Flower & Garden Show this March 15-23. All photos provided by the author.