Bringing the Ark of Taste to a Chicago Garden
Jun. 24, 2016
On June 11, 2016 the Community Roots Demonstration & Community Garden in Chicago’s Skinner Park opened to the public. An educational hub for the city’s gardening programs and a vibrant urban green space, Community Roots offers a variety of workshops for children and adults on topics such as growing your own food, composting, bee keeping and rainwater conservation. Kristin Brock is Senior Program Specialist, Gardening, for the Chicago Park District and the project’s instigator. I spoke with her about this exciting initiative, which includes two Slow Food Ark of Taste beds.
Jennifer Breckner: First of all, I’d like to thank you and the Chicago Park District for including Slow Food in this new community demonstration garden. We are thrilled at the opportunity to share the importance of biodiversity with Skinner Park visitors. How did the Community Roots Demonstration & Community Garden come together?
Kristin Brock: When I started working for the Chicago Park District, I found a thriving educational program for kids (Harvest Garden) and a very large community gardening program (Community Gardens in the Parks), but no connection between the two. The Community Roots Garden combines both. It was developed with input from community members, our gardening staff, the Chicago Park District’s Planning Department, Greencorps and many, many volunteers. This project is unique in that it is the only park location where we have an outdoor classroom and designated home for gardening and other outdoor and environmental education workshops.
Jennifer Breckner: What were the considerations when choosing the site?
Kristin Brock: Chicago is a large city so finding a location that would be accessible to as many people as possible and that also had the support of the surrounding community were critical factors. Skinner Park, on the near west side of Chicago, was our favorite location from the start — it’s relatively centrally located and is a very active park with a lot of young families. There also weren’t many other gardens in the neighborhood, so we hoped to fill a gap in both programming and available garden space at the same time.
Jennifer Breckner: What is the importance of including Slow Food’s Ark of Taste in this project?
Kristin Brock: Not only does the Ark of Taste highlight biodiversity and continue to focus on the value of growing your own food, but it also gives us a way to tie history lessons and cultural traditions into the garden. When we set out to build this space, it was important to me to find multiple ways to connect people with gardening. Biodiversity was an avenue I hadn’t yet considered but soon realized was crucial to include.
Jennifer Breckner: Why is agricultural biodiversity a compelling topic?
Kristin Brock: I think as a society we’re way too comfortable with the familiar. In a city like Chicago with so many diverse cultures and ethnic backgrounds represented, I’m hopeful that bringing more attention to the Ark of Taste will help promote its value to a larger audience and new connections to the past can be made.
Jennifer Breckner: Lastly, what are some future plans for Community Roots?
Kristin Brock: We are really excited to offer free workshops and classes there, including, of course, Slow Food’s September 1st workshop on seed saving and tasting. We hope these classes will become a core part of our educational programming like our weekly youth gardening programs are. In addition, our staff will be hosting a number of cooking demos throughout the summer through our Garden to Go program, encouraging the whole family to work together – that is so important. Biodiversity has a key place within these programs and we hope to find interesting and educational ways to incorporate the topic.
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