With the upheaval of COVID-19, routines were disrupted.
However, I have always yearned to garden, and I wasn’t going to let COVID-19 deter me from my desire to do so this summer.
After doing loads of research, I decided to volunteer with Evanston Grows to get my hands dirty.
Evanston Grows, (a collective impact organization) has been assisting families with food security. They have a number of gardens that grow healthy produce. Even though I didn’t know this when I started, almost everything that is grown, is given to families in Evanston.
Three weeks ago, I biked to the farm stand at Fleetwood Jourdain ready to water fresh produce. In addition to watering at Fleetwood, I did some harvesting at the Eggleston Park Food Forest.
As I began to reap the ripe green peppers, I immediately became aware of my impact. I knew that through watering and harvesting, I was making a difference in my community.
I committed to watering at Fleetwood Jourdain every Wednesday for the remainder of my time home from Augustana college, and that had only been two more weeks.
Jean Fies, board president of Evanston Grows, said she believes that participating in small things make a big difference. “We need you, and we value anyone who can join us, little and big commitment,” Fies said.
Evanston Grows harvests about 40 pounds a week of fresh produce, and this summer on Wednesdays the Fleetwood Jourdain farm stand has been giving their produce to Evanston families for free. “I am proud of the fact that we are serving so many people weekly,” Fies said.
People all over Evanston come out to support Evanston Grows. “We’ve had workdays where ages from 15-80 something show up,” Fies said.
This fall, Evanston Grows is hosting their first fundraiser at Fleetwood, “Sowing and Growing,” on Sept. 16.
“We’re doing a silent disco, while also doing some craft activities like making herbal teas. And we’re going to make some vinegar with herbs. We’re going to pickle. And we will also be having food from Soul and Smoke, Shangri-La and various other restaurants. It’s going to be really fun,” Fies said.
Information about the fundraiser, events and volunteer opportunities are posted on its website evanstongrows.org. No matter what the season, Evanston Grows’ objectives remain the same.
“Workforce development remains the main objective, because we’re growing this working culture where we see everybody can work together and we’re really trying to tap neighbors, so that they can bring their friends,” Fies said.
Matthew Ryan, farm manager for Evanston Grows has been gardening for 10 years, and has been assisting with harvesting and growing at the farm stands.
“I’m only really working on two of the gardens Eggleston and Fleetwood, and I’m trying to get their gardens more production minded. So we’re growing more volume to produce. One of our goals is to grow more vegetables for the community,” Ryan said.
Ryan is most excited about the impact that gardening has on the community, and hopes Evanston Grows will grow more in the future.
“Gardening touches on so many societal issues; access to healthy food, stewardship and accretion care, taking care of nature,” Ryan said.
Gardening, Ryan said, has changed his life. “I’ve kind of been spending the last 10 years with my hands in the soil. So it has kind of become a huge part of who I am; outside in nature, growing vegetables,” Matt said.
Like Fies and Ryan, I have found gardening to be most effective in combating food deserts. Giving back in the smallest ways creates the biggest impact. If you have the opportunity to participate, you should.
It’s never too late to get involved, or to support your community. Your contributions are appreciated and necessary for greater change to happen.