New Stories From 'Urban Agriculture Notes'
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Chicago group plans for a community garden in formerly toxic soil

Photo by Camden Bauchner.

Sunflowers, a plant well known for its ability to absorb and mitigate harmful soil toxins through the process of phytoremediation.

By Zachary Goldhammer
Chicago Weekly
April 25, 2013


Past the intersection of 114th and St. Lawrence, across from the House of Hope, a 10,000-seat Baptist megachurch, and over the historic tracks of the Pullman railroad, a two-and-a-half-acre plot of land, has been left—like so many other South Side lots—completely vacant for years. The area’s soil has long been poisoned by waste from its former resident, a Sherwin-Williams paint factory, and the few remains of wildlife that may have once grown alongside the railway have been killed off by pesticides and herbicides that the rail company sprayed along the length of its tracks.

Yet amidst all this barren space, two wooden boat frames quietly announce the prospect of new growth. These little vacant vessels, which have been carefully propped up and framed by cinder blocks, will soon be filled with soil and seed as the Cooperation Operation commences its project: a flourishing urban garden.

In the words of its members, the Cooperation Operation is a “network of friends” who have dedicated themselves to the total transformation of this one plot of land, from vacant lot into sustainable agricultural center for the Pullman neighborhood. At the center of this network is Pullman native Justin Booz. After graduating from Grinnell College and living for several months in Zuccotti Park during the height of the Occupy Wall Street movement, Booz pursued “guerilla gardening” tactics—i.e., moving without permission into unused spaces and setting up sustainable agricultural spaces—in Missouri, New Mexico and California.

Read the complete article here.