As 2022 begins, we at Greentown Grows share with you our reflections on the good things that happened in 2021.
After a year of pandemic social distancing, we were able in April to join with other area green-oriented organizations for an outdoor Earth Day celebration at Olson’s Ace Hardware in downtown Waukegan. The chilly wind off Lake Michigan dampened attendance, but those who braved the cold were able to speak with our garden educators and left with lettuce seedlings and information about gardening.
The Home Garden Program moved into its second year, and we started the gardening season off by asking which crops the participants wanted to grow and holding an online class in English and Spanish on how best to start their spring gardens. Participants also practiced drawing a planting diagram and were able to have questions answered by our garden educators. Classes were followed up with monthly phone calls and on-site visits to help families feel confident and encouraged in their new skills.
Based on our crop survey, Greentown Grows utilized its greenhouse to grow cool-weather seedlings for our participating families. Additional seedlings were donated by Contemporary Farmer, Mary’s Greenhouse, and Tempel Farms Organics, with additional seeds from Liberty Prairie Foundation and Prairie Wind Family Farm. During the growing season, we received many heartfelt stories of families gardening together and enjoying the fresh produce, with pictures of smiling faces and gardens overflowing with beautiful vegetables.
In August, Joy Lutheran Church in Gurnee provided teams to install two more home gardens for the Greentown Grows program, bringing our total to eight home gardening families across the greater Waukegan area. New participants were provided seeds and seedlings for their fall harvest, and each will receive an entire season of gardening support in 2022. We are thankful for Cool Learning Experience’s referral of families to us as part of its environmentally-focused education program, empowering families to take charge of their food.
Our success would not be possible without the support and dedication of our crucial volunteer staff. In 2021, three new people became a part of our team. Sandy Sherwood, a retired children’s librarian and avid gardener, brings her enthusiastic spirit to public events and one-on-one work with family members. Andreas Guerrero, a local biologist, offers numerous skills including a flair for grant writing, Spanish language translation, and more. Nick Boline, currently serving in the U.S. Navy, has stepped in to help expand our mission in the community, using his bi-lingual skills to increase our cross-cultural outreach. In the course of 2021, some 23 volunteers generously contributed their time and energy to keep Greentown Grows growing during a difficult time.
We are thrilled that Andreas and Nick have teamed up to reopen and manage the Madeleine Fuqua Garden at Callahan Park in Waukegan. Inactive in 2020 and 2021 due to the pandemic, our community garden will spring back to life in 2022 and again provide fresh, healthy produce for food-insecure families. The redevelopment of this garden, along with our existing home gardens and their intended expansion, would not be possible without the public-spirited donation of compost from DK Organics.
With David Toledo and the Contemporary Farmer contributing many hours to grow seedlings for our participating families, and the law firm of Finn & Finn, our first corporate sponsor, generously providing both physical and financial assistance, Greentown Grows is positioned to make 2022 a banner year for home and community gardening in greater Waukegan. Ending 2021 with a bang, our participation in a SeedMoney crowdfunding campaign for local gardening organizations raised $2,025, qualifying us for a $300 challenge grant.
Thank you for letting us tell you the heartening Greentown Grows story of 2021, a challenging year for us all. We look forward to sharing with you an even more inspiring story when 2022 draws to a close–a story of more home gardens being created and flourishing, of a community garden brought back to life and again yielding abundant produce for local families in need, and a series of broader and deeper community impacts made possible only by friends like you.
Linda Belles and Nada Finn