Community garden blossoms

To protect Woodlawn's Brickyard Garden from development, 20th Ward Alderman Willie Cochran and activists announced July 7 that the City of Chicago will transfer the lot's ownership to the nonprofit NeighborSpace for $1 as part of the organization's mission to protect open space.

The transition will help to ensure the garden, at 6115 S. Woodlawn, will continue to provide food to local residents and education for kids, as it did this past Friday, when more than 30 children descended on the lot as part of the nearby ChristWay Baptist Church's inner-city youth programming. The children, soaking in the sun on a cloudless, breezy day, drew pictures of red tomatoes, wildflowers, and green beans growing. Volunteers read stories and brought two guinea pigs. Meanwhile, gardeners came and went to inspect and water their plants.

Although the garden now encompasses 25 plots cultivated by more than 60 people, said garden organizer Dorothy Pytel, the space grew from humble roots. In 1975 three neighborhood residents took over the vacant lot, which had been used for "illegal activities," Pytel said. The garden received its name early, she added, "because the biggest harvest has always been bricks." Years of work and three truckloads of soil in the past decade have transformed the area into a community space that yields a bounty of vegetables and goodwill. About half of the growers are connected with the University, Pytel said, and the remainder are neighbors. Because "people invariably grow too much," they share their produce among themselves and give plenty away. Last year Brickyard Garden distributed more than 20 bags of groceries to local residents.

Ethan Frenchman, '08

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Photos (left to right): Boys show off their garden drawings; children stand fascinated by guinea pigs; gardener Jill Adams and her dog, Mr. Bojangles, care for their plot.

July 25, 2007