Calumet Stewardship Initiative

2008 Fall

Urban and Community Gardening in the Calumet Region

By Laura Perna, Illinois Department of Natural Resources

Residents in the Calumet region have been growing vegetable and flower gardens for generations. The availability of fresh fruit and vegetables is not taken for granted in this part of the city. For many residents, a trip to the grocery store can be a half day endeavor. Cost and quality are an issue for many, especially for senior citizens and others on a fixed income. The increasing cost of gasoline and rising transportation costs for food in general makes the availability of wholesome food in the neighborhood an even more desirable amenity.

“Community gardens are helping to address the lack of choice and availability of food for residents throughout Chicago and right here in the Calumet region,” said Greg Bratton, Community Garden Coordinator for the Healthy Southeast Chicago and Stay Focusd’ Foundation who manages several gardens in the 10th Ward in the region (Greg is highlighted in the “Tribute” section of the CSI calendar).  Greg points out that the gardens use no pesticides, and that his methods for growing food stem from his simple, Arkansas country know how. The gardens grow food used by a diverse group of residents, and take into account cultural and age appropriate tastes. “There is the “hot dog” garden for kids at one location, and a senior citizen garden that grows food products that takes into account their preferences”.  It becomes apparent that the hot dog garden is appropriately named when the kids in the neighborhood stop by on Saturdays to help out. After weeding and tilling, they are fed dogs hot from the grill set up nearby.

The gardens help to establish pride in residents of all ages, and “greens up” the neighborhood at the same time.  “If given a choice of an empty lot versus a food producing community garden plot, I think it’s a safe bet that folks would opt for that lot to be a help to the community, rather than an eyesore”, said Bratton. 

Greg’s legacy is already “growing,” but the idea of having food available year round would further ensure that the urban gardens he manages are reaching their full potential.

For more information:

Healthy South Chicago & Stay Focus Foundation

Neighborspace Sites

CSI Tribute: Tribute to Gregory Bratton

By Laura Perna, Illinois Department of Natural Resources

Gregory Bratton has volunteered and been employed by several not for profit entities in the Calumet region for many years. He currently works for the Stay Focusd’ Foundation. He possesses a myriad of skill sets. He is a community organizer, master gardener, computer expert and trainer, and a one man employment agency. He works with residents and community groups from children to senior citizens. He hails from Arkansas and has brought his simple, earth-friendly agricultural practices to good use in the many community gardens in the 10th ward he manages, with assistance from a very involved citizenry. Congratulations to Greg on his many accomplishments in the Calumet region.

For additional archived videos of stewardship and conservation activities in the region check out Calumet resident, and past CSI secretary, Kevin Murphy's Calumet Stewardship YouTube account.

Photos and Videos