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Evolving stories About Growing Food in a Big City

Filtering by Tag: Karen's Garden

How community building happens without really trying

Cassandra West

Julie just found another herb marker.

It’s spring. It’s winter. They're both happening at once. Yes, we had multiple seasons in a few hours this morning, but that didn’t stop a hardy group from coming out to get started prepping Karen’s Garden for the growing season.

There were some emails late Friday on whether we should cancel because of the forecast. We decided to see who would show up.

Jeanette and David were there by 9 a.m. Then Julie and Bruce. Marsha. Jennifer. Donn. Then Allen and Corey from Berwyn. New Oak Parker Jewel, who didn’t get our emails, even came out. By 11 a.m., we had 13 people braving sudden microclimates that brought repeating waves of blowing snow, blustery winds and glorious sunshine. Around noon, everyone agreed they’d had enough.

By then, though, we’d made a lot of progress. Weeds had been pulled up. Trees pruned. Flagstones pried out of the soil to identify beds for later planting. Woody stems cut down. Garden statutes and decorative markers unburied. An herb garden uncovered and cleared.

Most of all new connections were forged. Several people realized they had been working alongside a neighbor who lived only a few blocks away. Or that their wives knew each other. Or that they had crossed paths before. The biggest realization: We all had something in common— we wanted to be there on this morning. And while we were building a community garden, we were strengthening our community.

It was a lovely morning.

Karen's Garden is a community garden organized by the Oak Park Area Edible Gardening Cooperative that's being developed on private property in Oak Park. If you live in Oak Park and want to become part of Karen’s Garden, send an email to

—Cassandra West