Olive’s Garden for the Hungry

Contact Information: Email Bill Zelenka at gardenforthehungry@hotmail.com
Address: 5200 W Ainslie
Neighborhood/Community Area: Jefferson Park
Garden Established: 2006
Leased by NeighborSpace: 2014
Social Media/Website: 
Facebook: @OlivesNeighborhoodGarden 
Community Partners: Cub Scout Pack 3963, Boy Scout Troop 840, Jefferson Park Neighborhood Association (JDNA)
Garden Workdays: Sundays during the growing season

About the Garden: (From Olive’s Garden for the Hungry on Facebook)
The garden is situated on a previously abandoned lot of state owned property on the edge of the Kennedy expressway on the corner of W. Ainslie Ave. and N. Laramie St. on the northwest side of Chicago.

A brief history on how the garden came to be:
The Jefferson Park Neighborhood Association wanted to do something with the space for some time and in 2006 the idea of a garden there was mentioned to Heinz Nogly a scout leader in Cub Scout Pack 3963 which meets at Eden Church which is just a block away from the space. The idea was passed along to Andy Brecklin,a leader in Pack 3963 who was also involved with Boy Scout Troop 840. Andy, who is still heavily involved in the upkeep and organizing for the garden, then passed the idea along to his son who went on to start the garden.
The Eagle Project portion of the garden:
The garden was built in sections on weekends with scouts working to clear rocks (mostly gravel, but some large buried rocks) and buried garbage and glass from the garden plots. Other scouts worked on clearing trash along the side of the bridge down to the highway. Unwanted trees were removed from the fence and the outside of the fence was cleared. Volunteers began regularly mowing the parkway. Hawthorne trees were trimmed and 1 was removed to give more sun to plots. Manure, mushroom compost, peat-moss, and other fertilizers were added in large quantities to make soil healthier and more productive.
Donated plants were planted and watering began using Mrs. Olive Boregardt’s outdoor spigot.
The garden was expanded in sections throughout the summer, slowly making more ground usable and healthy. At the end of the summer a ceremony was held where the continued operation was handed over to the Jefferson Park Community Association, ending the official Eagle Project portion of the garden.
Continued Operation: Today, the garden is worked by shared commitment between neighbors and scouts. In 2012, a “share the harvest” program was added, where home gardeners can drop off their surplus produce to be distributed to the pantry as well. Some neighbors have taken that a step further and dropped off boxed donations such as pasta along with their tomatoes. Fundraising efforts are underway to decrease the time from ground to table by purchasing transplants rather than growing from seed (when appropriate). In 2012, due to transplants and mild weather, the garden was able to deliver fresh produce for eight months of the year!