Karoline Foulk carries materials for building the mutual aid expansion at the McKinley Park Community Garden.

Mutual Aid Group Grows Community Garden with Free Veggies

Published July 4, 2022

The McKinley Park Community Garden — a volunteer-run space in McKinley Park's wide parkway between north- and southbound South Damen Avenue — has grown its footprint and mission through a partnership with the McKinley Park Mutual Aid group.

 
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Two new garden beds alongside the existing community garden will host nutritious produce to support the community, said McKinley Park Mutual Aid garden volunteer Caroline Foulk.

 
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"While the majority of planter beds at the community garden are reserved for individual use, the expanded beds are meant to be enjoyed by the entire community," Foulk said.

New mutual aid planters host growing vegetables alongside the McKinley Park Community Garden at 3800 S. Damen Ave., Chicago.New mutual aid planters host growing vegetables as part of the McKinley Park Community Garden at 3800 S. Damen Ave., Chicago.These garden beds on the east end of the garden are distinctively shaped and "are the only beds in the garden where the produce is up for grabs to passers by," Foulk said. Growing there are tomatoes, peppers, salad greens and other vegetables.

"The hope is that these beds will be a source of free produce that people can easily incorporate into their cooking," Foulk said. "We are trying to grow produce that is common to the cultural makeup of McKinley Park."

First Garden Demolished

Starting in 2021, the mutual aid group had originally built and tended a garden on a vacant lot off Western Avenue in the northwest corner of the McKinley Park neighborhood. "The lot was sold by the owner to a developer, and the garden was demolished to make room for a new home," Foulk said.

 
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Volunteer Kris helps prep the mutual aid gardening beds at the McKinley Park Community Garden.Volunteer Kris helps prep the mutual aid gardening beds at the McKinley Park Community Garden.The community garden expansion grew from partnership on a Chicago Community Works grant that included McKinley Park Mutual Aid, the McKinley Park Community Garden, the McKinley Community Play Garden and the McKinley Park Development Council. Although a different finalist received the grant, the gardens continued to communicate and work together, Foulk said.

More Veggies

"The mutual aid network ... cherished the benefit of shared gardening space," Foulk said. "We are extremely grateful to Nicholas [Efrosinis] and the community garden for providing us the resources to build this dream and share with one another."

"We are thrilled," said McKinley Park Mutual Aid organizer Latham Zearfoss. "This means free veggies for our community."

The program is seeking additional volunteers to help in the garden, as well as with neighborhood mutual aid efforts, Foulk said. "We have a small group of gardeners who have pledged to visit the garden to tend to the beds and water the plants on a daily basis."

 
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To get involved, send email to mckinleypark.covid19@gmail.com or connect via social media, including the mutual aid group's Facebook page.


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