The Peterson Garden Project, an organization that strives to teach Chicago residents how to grow their own food through small-scale gardening, is known for its Pop Up Victory Gardens and the motto, “We can grow it!” This spring and summer, Peterson Garden Project is focusing on the complementary motto, “We can cook it!” and is implementing more platforms of their Fearless Food initiative, including the new book Fearless Food Gardening in Chicagoland: A Month-by-Month Growing Guide for Beginners and the Fearless Food Kitchen, which will be a space to teach people how to cook the produce they have grown in their gardens.
The passion for the Fearless Food initiative is inspired by LaManda Joy, the founder of the Peterson Garden Project. This passion has been community-based since its beginning in 2010. Joy has great hope about the impact of gardening on Chicago’s communities. She states, “Being involved with the national community gardening movement via the Board of the American Community Gardening Association, I know that gardens are one of the key neighborhood features that bring people together: they fight crime, make friends out of strangers, beautify…and this doesn’t even include the fresh food or environmental impact.…The famous permaculturalist Geoff Lawton said it best: ‘All the world’s problems can be solved in a garden.’”
Peterson Garden Project’s recently published month-by-month Chicago gardening guide has the goal of growing the gardening community in Chicagoland even more. According to a recent press release, the book is designed to teach urban gardeners how to successfully grow their own food in a backyard, patio pot, or community garden plot. It is equipped with answers to vital questions such as what to plant, when to plant, how to build a raised bed, where to position the garden, what plants offer the biggest value, and how to protect against cold weather. Peterson Garden Project has taught thousands of people how to grow their own food, and the book puts that experience into a concise and easy-to-read format intended for gardeners of any level. The book also includes recipes utilizing in-season produce. This book, hand-in-hand with the Fearless Food Kitchen, has the hope of transforming people into effective gardeners and home cooks.
LaManda says, “My favorite stories are when people I know—who previously knew nothing about food growing—tell me they’re not gardening with us anymore at Peterson Garden Project. At first I get alarmed, but then I usually hear that they are pitching in with their neighbors to put in a garden at their condo. Or putting in raised beds in their home’s back yard or on the roof. We have had many gardeners take this trajectory—learn with Peterson Garden Project and then go on to their own form of gardening, often teaching others in the process. It is exactly what we are striving for and makes me proud and happy every time I hear of it.”