Hello and welcome to this small Yard Sharing website! Here you will find a short story of the Rogers Park Yard Sharing Network. However, we decided to put this website together to inspire and support YOU to start your own Yard Sharing network or garden in your city, neighborhood, or backyard! Check out our Resources page for more information and to get started.
The Rogers Park Yard Sharing Network started in 2011 as a project of a small non-profit called LETS GO Chicago that focused on local solutions to environmental, social and economic issues in our world today. Growing local food and teaching young people how to do so became a big focus of the organization, but without any vacant lots near by or access to viable growing space, we started going door to door asking our neighbors if they would be willing to lend some of their unused property to our yard sharing network vision. Over the course of three years we were able to build around 1500 square feet of growing space in 8 yards in our neighborhood! We kept one big garden for the use of our organization as a teaching space and helped connect neighbors and kids in our garden program to plots in our other yards.
Growing Food / Growing Community
Our mission when we started the yard sharing network was multifaceted. We wanted to increase the amount of food growing space in our neighborhood, but we were also invested in accessibility and community building in the process.
There are an increasing amount of community garden in Chicago and around the country, but it is critical that we look at who is able to utilize and access those spaces. We witnessed many financial and physical hurdle to becoming members of community gardens in our neighborhood so we focused of direct outreach and sliding scale participation fees when connecting with our network growers.
We also had monthly potlucks and educational workshops for our network during the peek of our operations. Being with each other, learning from each other, challenging notions of private space, talking about new models of community safety were all braided into the mission of our network.
A Model to Inspire
In addition to building an operating a network in our neighborhood, as a group we were really interested in model sharing. We never wanted our network to be large. Our vision was small networks everywhere. Lots of neighbors working together to build collective growing/ learning spaces and fostering deeper relationships in the process. When we think about sustainable futures for our cities we know that both new infrastructure AND deeper community building will be essential for our social transformation.
In that light, we documented everything we did when building our network so that we could share our model with others. We do not think our model was perfect, nor do we want you to copy exactly what we did. We know that you will have the best idea of what is needed in YOUR community and we hope that our Tool Kit and Land Use Agreement might assist you in your process.
Although our network has scaled back to one main garden, we have been in operation for nine seasons, grown with dozens and dozens of neighbors, harvested thousands of pounds of foods and have created a space full of a lot of joy. We hope you will be inspired by our story and consider starting a network of your own.