Conversations ranged from what is AUA, to how do I start a garden, to my church group wants to grow food, to what happens if…? Everybody had a map, and at each table you could get your map stamped, validating your visit. All the kids were filling them up. Parents, too. I finally had to ask what you get if you filled all the spots? – turns out, you get a tattoo stamp of a ladybug or something. But the kids were into it. It was kind of like a treasure hunt.
In between the mayhem of stamping parents’ and kids’ maps, there were fascinating conversations.
My favorite came from the man who wanted to grow a tomato plant on his back porch. He’d decided there was too much shade from the tree in the yard and had a pot to plant in. But he felt he was too late to start from seed – yea, probably, but he was very eager to try something. I suggested getting an already started tomato plant. He liked that idea but wasn’t sure… “how much is a tomato plant? $20, $30, $40…. $50, I don’t know.”
How relieved he was when I said, “maybe five bucks.” I don’t know the cost of a tomato plant, but today I was an Ambassador to experiencing gardening. That’s what counted.
I admire this man. He was upfront and he truly didn’t know. But look how far we’ve come away from growing food. The distance expands between understanding what it means to grow and get food and what appears on the plate. We’re searching again for our connection to the earth, precarious as she may seem, by putting a tomato in a pot.
“Victory Gardens!,” one lady cried. Another had a bag stuffed full with literature, she was determined on learning how to garden.
Other conversations were uplifting in meeting a young man whose mentor seemed to be encouraging him to become an organizer. We had a long discussion about what is policy, what is an ordinance, what is urban agriculture?
What is it? I’m just learning.
The following was posted on the AUA list serve – which is open to anyone who would like to join the AUA google group.
“I post on open AUA with slight hesitation, but I’d like to focus on water for a moment.
“With good fortune I was able to attend an event at Goodman Theatre
presented by Arts Power Chicago – centering around funding agendas for arts in Chicago.
“What made news was Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel’s appearance and comments about property taxes for not-for-profits. That turns out not to be on the table, but water is.
“‘So if – I just want you to understand this – I’m going to change the
way we – non-profits and charitables don’t pay for water today,’
Emanuel said. ‘That’s going to change. I was clear about that in the
campaign. And there’s a lot of good non-profits and charitables, but
they get a tax benefit, they get a benefit on the tax side. And given
the changes we’ve got to make, and given the sacrifices I’m going to
ask from everybody, nobody is in a sacrifice-free zone.’
– Rahm Emanuel as reported at
and viewed on 4/30/11.
“Will this affect community gardens getting water from the city? Does
it affect NeighborSpace and its procurement of land and water rights?
Do we have potential instances where not-for-profit gardens will be
“I don’t know.”
To join the conversation go to http://auachicago.org/ and click on “Click here to join the discussion,” under the Google Groups logo. If you would like to follow the comments, or make any comments yourself – stop by the AUA site.
It was, overall, a fantastic day.