Ruby Garden Brings Rogers Park Community Together
Last year, Angelic Organics Learning Center partnered with the Rogers Park Green Space and Food Systems Coalition to develop a new multi-plot community garden, the Schreiber Park Ruby Garden in the Rogers Park neighborhood of Chicago. The garden is now home to 64 community garden plots (and growing!) tended by area residents and community groups, including a number of refugee groups based in the neighborhood.
Ruby Garden held its first community workday of the season on April 24 when over 30 participants got their hands in the dirt and created four new raised garden beds with recycled materials. The new beds were built in part to accommodate a growing number of requests for garden plots by community members and groups.
Refugee Nutritionist Sarah Eichberger, of the Heartland Health Outreach, Refugee Health Programs, explains that the workday, and the garden itself, has helped bring together community members who might otherwise not have interacted with each other.
“During the work day, our refugees were working right alongside neighborhood residents, talking with each other and interacting,” Eichberger says. “This truly is a community garden.”
Long-time neighborhood resident Edward Langer sees the garden as a stabilizing force in the neighborhood. “The kids in the neighborhood used to trash things,” Edward says. “Now they’re growing vegetables. The garden is such a pleasure. People who live nearby it come together at the garden to talk about their neighborhood. The garden has really become the key to neighborhood stability here.”
Eichberger explains that in addition to building community, the garden provides refugees with the therapeutic and nutritional benefits of growing fruits and vegetables using the skills they brought with them from their home countries.
“They are being introduced to new vegetables, that they didn’t grow in their home countries, such as Swiss chard,” Eichberger says. “They are also coming up with new ways to prepare the foods they grow and are incorporating them into their native dishes, such as curry.”
Groups who collaborated to build the Ruby Garden include the Heartland Alliance’s Marjorie Kovler Center and Refugee Health Programs, Chicago Waldorf School, Pan-African Association, Family Empowerment Centers of Chicago, and Loyola University's Solutions to Environmental Problems (STEP) Program.
Listen to an interview with Sarah Eichberger and Bhutanese Health Promoter Uma Devi Mishra that recently aired on Chicago Public Radio’s Worldview.