It’s been a long time since anyone has seen a community garden on the corner of Peterson and Campbell avenues. Nearly seventy years, in fact.
For four growing seasons, 1942 to 1945, this corner was part of a WWII victory garden. Descendants of horticulturalist Pehr S. Peterson owned the lot and donated use of it to the community.
This summer, thanks to local resident and avid gardener LaManda Joy, community gardening returns to a section of the same parcel of land. In just a few months, LaManda came up with the idea of the Peterson Garden Project, got the necessary permissions, spread the word, organized fundraisers and signed up volunteers.
LaManda is modeling the project on the original concept of victory gardens in more ways than one. Education and support for novice gardeners will be provided, as it was during the forties. The next benefit/information meeting is scheduled for Thursday, May 20th, at the Dank-House in Lincoln Square.
One hundred and forty individual organic garden plots are available, each providing 24 square feet of planting space. As of May 2, city gardeners have grabbed up 30 of the plots. Costs include $45 per plot, plus the cost of raised beds, organic soil and other gardening supplies. Participants commit to tending their gardens 2-3 times of week and adhering to organic gardening principles. For more details, check the Peterson Garden Project website.
This story has more than one hero. The garden wouldn’t exist without the vision, expertise and efforts of LaManda Joy; the enthusiastic support of 40th Ward Alderman Pat O’Connor; the generosity of the current owners of the land, Asian Human Services; the commitment of the future site gardeners; and sponsors’ donations. But what caught my attention was the connection to Pehr Peterson.
Although I grew up in house built on land once owned by Pehr Peterson, a half-block south of Peterson Avenue, on a street facing what is now called Peterson Park and I attended Peterson Elementary School, I’m only now discovering the extent of this Swedish immigrant’s legacy. The Peterson Garden Project, located on former Peterson-owned property, is a fitting tribute to the gardener who planted so much in his adopted city.
Photo credits: Thanks to LaManda Joy for use of the photos of the Peterson Garden Project site. Thanks to Jennifer Stix for the the photograph of LaManda Joy.
Related posts: Growing Community in Chicago
Resources: Check out the site LaManda created for the Peterson Garden Project to find out how to participate and support the garden. She also blogs about gardening and related topics at The Yarden. Follow the project on Facebook and Twitter.