If we were having coffee….i’d tell you all about one of Chicago’s south side first Bronzeville roof top farms and how it save me. I’d have you meet me at the Sip and Savor cafe right off of 43rd and King drive. It’s located in Chicago’s historical Bronzeville neighborhood 548 e. 43rd st.
After greeting everyone, i would introduce you to the barista and order caramel lattes for us. As we wait for our order i’d gage about as we take in the soothing atmosphere, letting the sweet smells of the freshly baked pastries take us to a place of bliss, i’d do some deep breathing and if you haven’t already noticed, i’d bring attention to all the rich culture surrounding us that would make anyone proud to be apart of the community. I was recently reminded that living in a neighborhood versus being a part of the actual community are two extremely different things and can make the world of difference in your actual experience. I would start our conversation telling you all about that from personal experience and how i came to a place of healing and growth by tuning into myself and letting the force guide me in that way.
This time last year, i was a hot mess. I had lost my job a few months prior and my personal life was in shambles. I felt so disconnected and lost from everything, but mainly from my purpose. Fortunately, I’m one of those people who has to stay busy to keep from falling into a depression so i took all of my new free time and starting investing in myself, the development of my health and fitness company, which had been stagnant for sometime now, and my community. I got back to being disciplined with my daily rituals, reading my daily bread, praying, yoga and meditation. I started providing yoga sessions for one on one clients. I didn’t know what i would do in direct association with the community at the time, but i remember thinking, where ever help is needed, i’m going to try to provide it if i can. I had already released my thoughts to do so via meditation rituals so i knew opportunities to follow through, wouldn’t be far behind and this is when i learned all about the Bronzeville Roof-top Farm.
“Every beautiful plant had to go through a whole lot of dirt to get there”- Mother Earth
This post gives insight of the journey before the beauty.
Have you ever heard of the term “beautiful accident”? Well that’s exactly the thought i had when i discovered the Bronzeville community garden and farm. Three times a week i would go to Washington park to work out with yoga clients and i always saw Latrice, also known as “the queen of Green”, the head of garden initiatives with the Urban Juncture Foundation. She was always there with her 2 young sons tending to what i didn’t realize was a community garden at the time. It’s located right on the corner of 51st and Calumet.
One day while passing by with my client, photographer and long term friend Keith L. Nixon, i just decide to stop and ask her more about it and she invited us to volunteer to work the garden and Harvest on select days. I know how expensive clean eating can be with out proper budgeting, so of course i jumped on the opportunity to help out in exchange for free produce lbvs… and it’s fresh, it really was a no brainer. I figured working the garden would be great therapy to help heal through loosing my job and going through a hard break up.
Now that i was back to working for myself again, my schedule was actually more suitable to help with the roof top farm. So Latrice introduced us to lead farmer Mecca. Now all of a sudden feeling reluctant, i started to back out. I was more content with the idea of the garden because i had worked my moms’ flower garden a few years. The farm on the other hand, was a whole new level i didn’t think i was ready for. However, i did it anyway and i worked with them both consistently throughout the summer. Of all the great experiences i’ve had, traveling the past 10 years, sharing significant experiences with loves ones, discovering new sides of myself, i can honestly say this is one of the best decisions i’ve ever made.
Whenever we’re forced to grow, we tend to panic first. There is something calming about the nature of nature though. Starting fresh, going through each stage of the growing process and then doing it all over again, specifically in gardening, the recoiled process of growth and compost is very telling yet relaxing. It just brings into perspective the reminder, that the process of gain and loss are natural and repetitive throughout life and that simple yet powerful reminder made things easier to deal with.
The farm development i witnessed over the summer represented the exact same growth that was taking place inside of me and in all areas of my life from personal and social to professional. I ended up getting exactly what i needed from the experience and much much more. It’s actually how i learned of the Sip and Savor cafe which i’ll discuss in later post categorized as “South Side Chi’s Hidden Gems”, Stay tuned. Anyway, It was like a portal to an amazing network all associated with Urban Juncture, a bigger organization, specializing in Bronzeville’s, economic and commercial real estate re-development. I will discuss more about the Urban Juncture Foundation in greater detail in a later post as well.
Through this network however, i came a cross great resources i’m currently using to grow my health and fitness company. I now have access to a different clientel that not only used but need my services and i officially became apart of the Bronzeville growth community by introduction to other substantial organizations like the 51st st. Business Association, the Bronzeville Retail Initiative and the Bronzeville Tourist Center. All of these new connections were and are perfectly fitting to enhance the few different endeavors i’m working on in the moment. The laws of attraction are Real!
So as you can see i soon learned that the community garden was apart of a much bigger initiative. The Urban Junctures’ goal focuses on restoring the historical bronzeville community. Their progress includes one of the south sides, 1st, rooftop farms located on top of the new Jerk Shack eatery, a bike shop, a grocery store and much more all apart or associated with the commercial real estate complex currently being built on the corner of 51st. and Prairie Ave. The crops produced via the rooftop farm supply the Jerk shack and hopefully many more eateries to come, with all fresh additions to the tasty food they serve.
The funny thing is, i had attended a pre-development party earlier the previous year where we engaged on a tour of the progress that had been made so far. There was talk of the other associated endeavors such as the community garden but we only visited the indoor progress a that time. So when i was when i was reintroduced to the garden by Latrice, i was ecstatic to learn my help would be part of the overall growth. Below is a picture timeline of the progress that lead to the beautiful scene that’s appears from the 51st. green line train station today. The timeline will continue with upcoming garden and clean eating post, over the course of the next few weeks and months leading up to June, the start of the new garden season.
The process, started with installation. We literally engaged in the a significant part of the journey and was awesome and rewarding with more and more community members that decided to share in the growth as time went on. It truly has been a major blessing, being able to take part in the installation, growth (both garden and community), garden programing and the over all fun. The community garden and rooftop farm is becoming a designated safe space and a pillar in the area for community love and growth. If you or anyone else you know are going through a major life transition, you don’t have to do it alone or even expose it for that matter. When in area stop by, start your healing process and contact the garden and learn how you too can become apart of the history by growing south with us. The pictures below, start with a current picture of the roof top farm. I take you back to the some of the beginning steps and skills we learned along the way. Stay tuned for updates. Moving forward i will be sharing the progress of the garden’s development. We urge all that are willing, to join us and #GrowSouth with the #BronzevilleCommunityGardens…enjoy.