Community Gardens With a New Attitude

Root-Riot Urban Garden Network is comprised of local citizens dedicated to creating opportunities for people to connect with one another and learn and discover the joys of growing their own food. In addition to our community gardens in Oak Park, Forest Park and the West Side of Chicago, we are committed to supporting local communities in coming together in partnership to invent creative solutions to the challenges they face.
This past year we worked with Douglass Academy High School on Chicago’s west side. A neighborhood high school, Douglass faces tremendous challenges in educating students. Root-Riot partnered with the school to help students complete their service learning hours required in order to graduate. These students worked for the first time in partnership with residents from their neighborhood to build the Root-Riot gardens. The success of these initial efforts led to a partnership with Youth Guidance, a non-profit based in the CPS to provide a summer jobs program. Through this program, students were trained in leadership and sustainable business through the design, manufacture and sale of cold frames to local residents.

In addition to working with local schools, Root-Riot has developed a monthly educational series that features highly skilled experts in gardening, backyard poultry and food preparation. This year we also have planned a film series to help raise awareness and encourage meaningful discussion about the challenges that our food supply faces.
Accomplishments in 2010:
 Developed a summer jobs program for students on the West Side of Chicago
 Engaged 150 households in growing their own food (many for the first time)
 Connected diverse communities of people across socio-economic lines
 Provided high quality education on a range of environmental and food related topics
 Launched a micro-enterprise program at Douglass Academy High School
 Recipient: Oak Park Green Award
 Recipient: Mayor Daley’s Green Works Award for Community Leadership
 Coverage in local, national and international media

Goals in 2011:
 Expand our network of gardens
 Develop an membership organization that expands beyond the Chicago Region
 Present/Sponsor a film series centered on the environmental, social and economic issues facing our communities
 Expand our work with local schools and the products offered in our micro-enterprise program
 Expand our class offerings in both scope and frequency
 Register as either a 501c3 non-profit or as a LC3 Corporation

Recognizing the impact of the economic and environmental changes that are underway, we work in partnership with local businesses and experts to create hands on opportunities for people to grow their own food in their own communities. Our hope is that by doing so we deepen people’s sense of belonging in their community and strengthen the resilience of our society as a whole. We place our greatest emphasis on community education and social connection. We bring people together across generations, economics, and ethnicity to work together creating something new. We apply the best practices of community organization and business development to get the job done and teach others how to get the job done.

For more information contact Seamus Ford seamus@root-riot.com or Amy Beltemacchi grow@root-riot.com

Dare to have an adventure

I found out about Wilderness Inquiry through one of my company’s interns, an amazing young woman named Virginia Pendleton. Virginia is spending her summer as an Outdoor Leader with Wilderness Inquiry, leading adventure trips.  Wilderness Inquiry is an award-winning, non-profit organization…