by Eileen Tibble, Marketing and Development Manager for The Garden Works Project
Pollinators and vegetable gardens are good friends, so it makes perfect sense that The GardenWorks Project and DuPage Monarch Project would be too! When driving around Dupage and Kane County, you may see rows of garden beds containing heads of lettuce that are bigger than one’s head or tomato plants covered with bright red tomatoes. There’s a good chance those garden beds are from The GardenWorks Project, the newest member of DuPage Monarch Project. The organization began in 2012 and since then have built over 700 home and community gardens in Western Chicagoland and served over 2,400 food insecure residents!
The GardenWorks Project’s mission is to promote food growing in order to improve food security, health, and wellness and to help create a more resilient and sustainable food system. They do this by educating and empowering families facing food insecurity to grow their own organic produce and reduce food waste. The GardenWorks Project supports individuals by building a home garden in people’s backyards or porches. They partner with local organizations to install community gardens to support growers in community settings and to harvest produce for local food pantries. Lastly, they provide educational resources for any grower to maximize one’s harvest and achieve sustainable practices that promote a healthy local food system and environment.
“I love the fact that GardenWorks builds community in its work” says Executive Director, Jeannie Iseman. “It is core to who we are as an organization, a neighbors helping neighbors based approach. We work with emergency food assistance agencies, health and nutrition service agencies, horticulture programs, local business sponsors, garden clubs, and over 200 volunteers annually to achieve our goals.”
GardenWorks is excited to partner with DuPage Monarch Project because of our connected mission of sustainability and conservation, and shared belief that pollinators are an important part of a healthy local food system. Vegetable garden beds are more prolific when in a broader, natural landscape and GardenWorks has begun adding some annuals and perennials into garden plans. A recent project at Illinois Youth Center involves rehabbing a large green space to include vegetables and perennials for pollinators. These gardens are an educational opportunity for IYC youth. The produce harvested in their gardens will feed their community and be sold at a farmers market to generate revenue for their programs.
GardenWorks Project offers volunteer and sponsorship opportunities throughout the year and holds two seedlings sales in May and August (the next one is Aug 6, 2022). They offer a monthly newsletter, a Food Growers Network membership program for educational and gardening resources, and a Food Readers Book Club discussing issues pertinent to food insecurity and the local food system. Food growers can also sign up for a free Fresh Food Connect app to easily donate excess produce to local food pantries. GardenWorks’ new location in Wheaton embraces a partnership with the DuPage Event Center and Fairgrounds to create food growing opportunities on their campus. GardenWorks’ new community vegetable gardens are adjacent to the Fairgrounds’ new pollinator gardens. With volunteer support, we plan to grow produce at these community gardens for our clients and for local food pantries. All are welcome to visit us at the Fairgrounds gardens, where we meet every summer Wednesday at 9AM to weed, water, harvest produce, and spend time together working in pursuit of a healthier community.