Growing Food Together
The GardenWorks Project is registered 501c3 nonprofit, volunteer-led organization founded in 2012 to serve the western Chicagoland suburbs.
Mission: The GardenWorks Project empowers, educates, and promotes organic suburban agriculture to improve the wellbeing of our community, the environment, and families facing food insecurity. We support all gardeners in their efforts to grow and prepare food for themselves and their neighbors in need.
Vision: Our community nourished by gardeners empowered to grow and share food.
Values: The GardenWorks Project has a zero-tolerance policy for sexism, racism, and xenophobia. We believe there is a place in the garden for all. We will offer resources and support to gardeners to create the world we want to see - well-nourished and free from hate, discrimination, and harassment.
Home Gardening Program for Food Insecure Families
We believe that everyone deserves fresh produce, not only those who have the financial means to afford it.
To reduce barriers to home vegetable growing, The GardenWorks Project provides low-income families with all of the resources needed to grow food at home. We teach families how to sow, maintain and harvest from their gardens from early spring to late fall.
Each year we bring more gardens to families in need than the year before. Since 2012, we have installed home gardens for 214 clients who depend on food pantries to feed their families. In all, 844 individuals now have access to fresh, organic, home-grown vegetables because of their GardenWorks Project gardens.
We support our gardeners with fresh compost and vegetable plants and seeds for at least two years after their initial garden installation so that they can continue to build on the skills learned during their initial year in our program.
In addition to a 4x8' cedar raised garden bed, soil, compost, plants, and gardening tools, each family is paired with a gardening coach to help ensure their success throughout the growing season.
We partner with area food pantries and social service organizations to identify families who are both food insecure and want to grow their own food. We teach organic vegetable gardening in a way that promotes self-sufficiency, pride, and good stewardship of the Earth.
Resources for All Gardeners
Growing food requires knowledge, skill, time and resources. Interest in suburban agriculture is rapidly growing and information about gardening in a suburban setting is in demand. Gardeners can help fill area food pantries with fresh, homegrown produce so that healthy food is accessible to all. To help residents learn the skills necessary to grow food for themselves and each other, we offer:
- Food Growers Network
- Suburban Agriculture Resource Center
- Teaching/Community Gardens
- School and Community Garden Support Program
The GardenWorks Project Food Growers Network
In an effort to cultivate healthy food, people, and communities, The GardenWorks Project Food Gardening Network participants receive resources for their vegetable gardens including seeds, locally-grown seedlings, access to tools, garden supplies, basic and advanced educational opportunities, and technical assistance to maintain suburban gardens. Those maintaining gardens of all shapes and sizes become part of a growing network of gardeners and advocates working to promote organic suburban agriculture within a thriving local food system with opportunities to connect in person and via social media groups. Via the Food Growers Network, we will share a calendar of food garden education workshops happening in and around DuPage County.
We hope to inspire members of the Food Growers Network to think boldly and creatively about solutions to the food-security challenges our community faces and to be a change agent by planting extra seeds/seedlings with the intention of donating a portion of their annual harvest to their local food pantry. To increase the local supply of fresh, nutritious produce, GardenWorks will assist by educating community, school, and family gardeners on how to grow, harvest, prepare and preserve vegetables in their settings, and information on their nearest food pantry, what they are in need of and will accept, and how to prepare the vegetables for donation.
GardenWorks Project Suburban Agriculture Resource Center
We wish to make food gardening in the western Chicagoland area more accessible, and to relieve some of the barriers to local food production. The Resource Center will be the hub for area gardening education and resources. The Resource Center (103 W. Washington St., West Chicago) will be open to any individual or group in DuPage County, and there GardenWorks will:
- Provide seeds and seedlings to low-income families in our Home Gardening Program
- Sell plants, seedlings, raised-bed garden kits, and other gardening supplies to the general public
- Hold indoor workshops on gardening, harvesting, preparing and preserving vegetables
- Lend gardening tools and books
- Provide educational materials and best management practices regarding lead contamination in soils
GardenWorks Project Demonstration Gardens
At our demonstration gardens in West Chicago, we hold hand-on gardening classes, experiment with various organic gardening methods, and evaluate our Home Gardening Program methods. All produce grown in our demonstration beds is donated to West Chicago food pantries. The gardens are located at 401 W. Washington St., West Chicago.
We are extremely grateful to Healthy West Chicago, People Made Visible, the City of West Chicago, and the West Chicago Park District for partnering with The GardenWorks Project in multiple ways that have allowed us to expand our programs to create a greater impact and lasting change in the food security of the vulnerable in our community.
School and Community Garden Support Program
School and community gardens are a wonderful way to expose the people to organic food growing with the purpose of donating fresh produce to area food pantries. In 2017, five organizations were selected to receive five raised bed garden frames, seeds, and seedlings. Our 2018 organizations will be announced in April.
In order to make these programs possible, we need your financial support. Please consider making a one-time or monthly donation.
If you are a current volunteer, thank you! We hope you join us again in the future. If you'd like to get involved, there are many ways to do so. We would love to channel your expertise and passion to further our mission and vision.