It was a typically cold and windy Chicago day on February 23rd, but that didn’t stop over 200 gardeners from gathering at the first Connecting Chicago Community Gardeners (CCCG). Green- and community-minded people from all across Chicago came for a day of panel discussions and workshops aimed at figuring out how to keep Chicago’s hundreds of community gardens vibrant and strong. “This is a conference created by community gardeners, for community gardeners,” said NeighborSpace Executive Director Ben Helphand in his opening remarks.
The morning panel discussion, led by radio host Mike Nowak, featured Greencorps Chicago Program Director Edde Jones, KAM Isaiah Israel Congregation Social Justice Committee Chair Robert Nevel, Chicago Park District Gardening Program Specialist Jane Schenck, Fulton Street Flower and Vegetable Garden Leader Angela Taylor, Allianza Verde‘s Elvia R. Ochoa, and Chicago Urban Horticulture‘s Ron Wolford. Chicago’s community gardeners face a lot of challenges in 2013, including the reorganization of GreenCorps and rising water fees, but the panelists and the rest of CCCG’s attendees like to see these as opportunities for organization and cooperation.
In the latter parts of the day, gardeners attended breakout sessions on water conservation, land acquisition, community organizing, and fundraising. A 20-foot sheet of butcher paper hanging in the main conference room overflowed with notes and email addresses as gardeners signed up to meet on later days to discuss topics including garden tours, conservation, and planning for CCCG 2014. Even after the afternoon’s official sessions ended, gardeners who had just met each other that morning stood in small groups all around the Chicago Center for Green Technology chatting, hashing out plans, and looking forward.
Join us and check out more photos at the CCCG facebook page.