Sustainable Urban Gardening in Chicago: My Love, Healing and Purpose


What I Love about Gardening

          Smelling like earth, witnessing a seed germinate, harvesting nurtient dense vegetables from soil, wearing denim coveralls with wellies, cleaning dirt from my nails-these are my joys as an urban gardener.   I love it.  There is nothing more satisfying to me than being covered in sweat and earth after tending a vegetable garden.  It is my healing, my love, my sustainability, my purpose as I continue to live in the city of Chicago.  Cultivating food in the earth teaches me humility while giving power to my being as a whole.  I breathe, eat, sleep, drink, dream, speak, pray gardening 365 days a year with happiness and pride.  

Why I Garden

           There are a plethora of reasons why I enjoy being an urban gardener.  After I participate in a garden project or sit in my own garden oasis of vegetables, I discover more motives for my need to be a vegetable grower. They go across a spectrum of physical, mental, and spiritual planes that resonnate with my role as a sustainable food cultivator.  They range from the therapy of my hands being in soil to vitamin D from outdoor sunlight to spiritually grounding myself in the earth.  Although I have all these reasons and more, I would like to share three which are critical-reciprocity, legacy and self-reliance.  


          I have discovered a special relationship with Mother Earth (also known as Mother Nature) over the years, one of profound respect and consistent reciprocity.  The earth understands my role in gardening by giving me what I need whether it be heavy rain for high vegetable crop yields or fertile soil to grow an abundance of fresh food that is medicine for my body.  In turn, I make sure to plant non-GMO seeds through sustainable practices, replenish soil by composting food scraps and speak of the great ways earth is forgiving and abundant.  We work together to take care of each other.  My reciprical relationship with Mother Earth shows me that helping her results in her giving to me tenfold.


          I carry the legacy of a Mississippi sharecropper named Callie Glover, my late paternal great grandmother.  I take this status very seriously as the only urban gardener in my family living in Chicago.  In my early childhood, my time with Miss Callie did not reveal her life as a late 19th and early 20th century farmer who lived off the land.  Her work is narrated in my father stories of her growing a variety of nutritious vegetables, conducting diverse animal husbandry and preserving harvested produce to survive the winter seasons.  Although I have not learned about land cultivation first-hand from Miss Callie, I honor her by doing sustainable garden work as her proud descendant.  I look forward to leaving my legacy as a sustainable gardener to help the generations to come.


          Reliance on my vegetable garden abilities and knowledge is an invaluable asset in my life as an urban gardener.  Being more dependent on eating my home grown vegetables and medicinal herbs adds quality to my health.  This is because I get physical exercise doing garden work, eat fresh non-GMO produce directly from soil and use healing herbs treat acute discomforts.  My urban garden life also allows me access to affordable organic fresh food that saves me money I do not have to spend in city grocery stores.  My self-reliance as an urban gardener benefits my health and my finances, making my life more manageable.

The Road to My Urban Garden Life

          There are many factors that play a part in my current urban garden status.  The former garden matriarchs on both sides of my family have set the tone for my journey of working in soil. My education at the Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences has given me formal learning of agriculture while my college years as an agricultural economics major at the University of Minnesota gave me understanding of the industry.  My capstone research on Chicago's food insecurity at DePaul University is what inspired me to grow food to alleviate hunger issues.  Being the owner and lead adviser of my business, GrowAsis Urban Garden Consulting, Inc., allows me to speak to local Chicago community members about being empowered to grow and secure their own food for self-sustainability. All these factors are huge contributions to my current urban garden status.

What About You?

 I am glad to share my joys, reasons and history as an urban gardener.  I welcome you to feel free to share your role in urban gardening or urban farming.  How did you get started?  What do you enjoy about it?  What drives you to grow vegetables?  What are your gardening aspirations?