As the local food movement grows, Chicago-area residents are developing more imaginative and creative ways to embrace it and make it work for them. Oak Park resident Estelle Carol is one of those people. An artist and designer, she wants to create an “intentional community” that revolves around transforming her suburban yard into a food producing urban garden by partnering with serious gardeners with knowledge of permaculture.
The gardeners Estelle seek can be a family or an unrelated group who are willing to take a long-term lease on the first-floor unit of the two-flat Estelle owns with her husband, Bob Simpson.
Intentional communities are not a new concept. They’re much like housing cooperatives. In the ’60s, they might have been called communes, but the central idea is a living arrangement where people strive together with a common vision.
“We’re doing it better than a commune,” Estelle says of her idea. “We’re doing it better than we did — my generation [from the ’60s]. I want to place it within a larger community that already exists.”
Estelle’s vision has at its core permaculture — a method that uses the interconnections of healthy eco-system as the model, she says. “If done correctly, permaculture allows gardeners to produce larger yields with less labor and money.”
Once the community is formed, it will research the best methods to create a model garden from which other urban and suburban homeowners can emulate or learn. Along the way, Estelle wants to document the community’s experiences on film. She’s looking to partner with a documentary film producer familiar with the cinema verité style. She also wants to provide an opportunity for young videographers and producers and expand on the collaborative business model she and her husband have developed for their communication and marketing firm, WebTrax Studio.
Estelle says she and Bob are “open to lots of different ways to combine food plants, decorative plants, outdoor people spaces and energy efficient living.” They especially welcome “cutting-edge permaculture ideas.”
Right now, the couple are “baby gardeners,” she says. “We have a little bit of knowledge.” What they do have in abundance is space — a huge 3-bedroom apartment with two full baths. What they are offering is “a wonderful opportunity for people wanting to start a sustainable garden design and consulting business” from which all can reap the benefits.
That’s the intention.
For more information, contact Estelle at 708.386.7197 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.