Growing Food Together
The GardenWorks Project is registered 501c3 nonprofit, volunteer-led organization founded in 2012 to serve the DuPage County, IL area.
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.
Learn more about us directly from our leadership, volunteers, and clients. View videos
Home Gardening Program
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 132 clients who depend on food pantries to feed their families. In all, 516 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.
Organic Gardening Education
The GardenWorks Project offers group education opportunities on topics ranging from seed starting, organic gardening best practices and composting, to how to extend vegetable garden harvests into the fall and winter. These classes are made available to our clients and the general public. We also provide each of our clients with printed materials and match them up with a volunteer garden coach who provides instruction throughout the growing season.
We are excited to offer two new classes in 2017: Organic Gardening Basics, and How to Start a Community Garden. When available, information on these new offerings will be available on our Events page.
The GardenWorks Project Resource Program
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. To meet this need, in 2017 The GardenWorks project will offer suburban agriculture resources, expertise, and education in DuPage County via our Garden Resource Program, which consists of three components:
- GardenWorks Project Food Growing Network
- GardenWorks Project Suburban Agriculture Resource Center
- GardenWorks Project Demonstration Garden
The GardenWorks Project Food Gardening Network
In an effort to cultivate healthy food, people, and communities, we are forming The GardenWorks Project Food Gardening Network. Participants in the Network will 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 Gardening 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 Growing 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 DuPage County 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
- Accept pre-approved donations of new or gently used gardening tools and supplies
GardenWorks Project Demonstration Gardens
At our demonstration gardens in West Chicago, we will 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 will be donated to West Chicago food pantries.
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.
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.