Volunteer-run Buena Park community garden continues to grow through 'knowledge and seeds'

Community garden grows 800 pounds of produce a year

ByTracy Butler and Blanca Rios WLS logo
Wednesday, May 31, 2023
Buena Park community garden grows through 'knowledge and seeds'
Gingko Organic Gardens has been rooted in Chicago's Buena Park since 1994, growing all its fruits and vegetables for the Vital Bridges food pantry.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Tucked away in the Buena Park neighborhood is one of Chicago's oldest community gardens.

Gingko Organic Gardens has been around since 1994, growing all their fruits and vegetables for the Vital Bridges food pantry, which serves people living with HIV.

They grow about 800 pounds of produce a year which is a lot for the all-volunteer garden. The founding members of the garden have moved on but not before passing down their skills to the current core group of volunteers.

"None of us have any formal education in gardening or farming," said steering committee member Ivy Czekanski. "We share knowledge and seeds."

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And one thing they know for sure is that community gardens are essential to the environment.

"We've all noticed that the weather patterns have become more erratic. There's more storms, we're getting a lot of rain at once, so we need community gardens to absorb all that rain water," said Czewkanski. "You have to have unpaved vegetated areas and plants and trees to use that rain water so it's good flooding mitigation."

In addition to plants and vegetables, gardens attract hard-working bugs.

It's a wonderful space for pollinators, including monarch butterflies and including swallow tail butterflies," said Czewkanski.

And what's good for the earth is also good for humans.

"There's nothing more meditative than pulling out weeds, I recommend it, it's the best exercise, you're here in the fresh air listening to the birds," Czewkanski said.

Gingko Organic Gardens is one of the 109 community gardens protected and supported by NeighborSpace. Their website has information on how to volunteer or create a new community garden.