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Year Established: 1994
Local Leader: Eric Salus
Community Group: Ginkgo Organic Gardens Steering Committee
NeighborSpace Partnership: 1998
Named for the mature female ginkgo tree that made its home in the vacant lot at 4055 N. Kenmore, the Ginkgo Organic Gardens were founded by community gardeners in the Uptown neighborhood with a one clear goal in mind: to offer a solution to hunger among local residents. They sought to accomplish this by creating a community garden that operated as a food bank in which volunteers would grow organic vegetables, herbs, fruit and flowers, then donate them to Uptown-area non-profit organizations. According to local leader Eric Salus, the idea caught on quickly and, within one year of being formed, the Ginkgo Organic Gardens were producing hundreds of pounds of organic tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, beans, squash, and assorted culinary and medicinal herbs. Plum and pear trees have since taken root along with Silver Maples and several types of fruit bushes. A storage shed and trellis were also added to provide storage space for tools and other garden essentials, and the front of the garden was developed into a landscaped park with benches, raised flagstone beds, perennials – including native prairie plants. A wrought-iron archway announces the garden’s name and welcomes all residents to pitch in with the weekly harvest, or just sit awhile and enjoy the diverse surroundings.
NeighborSpace was one of the groups that helped save the garden in 1998 when a third-party bought the back taxes on the lot and attempted to condemn the garden. “Fortunately our original lease through the Department of Environment was still active, and the City corrected the oversight,” Eric says. “NeighborSpace was newly formed and adopted the garden as its first North-side property.”
In Eric’s Words: “Fighting hunger is our mission, but we also strive to educate others on the need for safe local food sources, and to support sustainable agriculture practices everywhere. We are proud that NeighborSpace has included Ginkgo Organic Gardens in the patchwork quilt of green spaces throughout the city, and believe the strength of this great city will continue to grow so long as there is a diversity of places in which to grow.”
Best Practice Idea: Eric says keeping volunteers happy keeps them committed to the garden. “A community garden is only as successful as its volunteers are committed. This is why we take our volunteers’ interests to heart, and incorporate their ideas into our landscape, crops and organization.”