Community Groves℠ – Openlands Artists’ Garden

(Chicago, IL)- The local non-profit Openlands received funding from ACTrees to develop a Community Groves℠ project planting fruit and nut trees at the edge of a thriving community vegetable garden.


Lesson: Partnerships

OPENLANDS.2Through their Community Groves℠ project funded by a People’s Garden grant from ACTrees, Openlands staff and their trained TreeKeepers volunteers got to better know the South Chicago Art Center and its programs, especially the high school students who took classes there. At the same time, Art Center staff and students came to know about the resources that Openlands TreeKeepers provide for their garden and especially for their trees, including helping them to learn more about tree care and the food that can come from trees—both these and others in their neighborhood (such as the serviceberries that grow wild along nearby streets and parks).

OPENLANDS.1TreeKeepers living in the southeast quadrant of the city began to adopt this site and spend more of their volunteer time there instead of spreading it over many different park sites in the city. Openlands hired a high school student (and new TreeKeeper graduate) from the neighborhood as a summer intern. He came from a family that already included several TreeKeepers. That family has recently suffered severe setbacks, including a major fire that destroyed most of their house. The garden community has been very supportive in helping to supply the family with food and other necessities, because that family has contributed so much to the garden and to the community’s knowledge of trees and tree care.


Lesson: Flexibility is Essential

OPENLANDS.4Challenging setbacks have mainly been in organizers’ failure to get examples of the art the students have produced and in getting written testimonials from the gardens and school presentations. Openlands staff will get directly involved in acquiring these in the future rather than leaving it to the local volunteers and overburdened Art Center staff. This is a program that is expected to continue for many years, so there will continue to be opportunities.


Lesson: Pest Control

Because the fruit trees were cherries and pears, no pesticides or herbicides at all were used. The entire garden, which mainly contains individual family vegetable plots, employs organic practices. This was a big reason the group decided not to plant apple trees, which tend to need some pesticide spraying to avoid worms, at least in the Chicago area.

Learn more about Community Groves℠.