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Chicago ‘Cooperation Operation’ to Transform South Side Lot into Creative Farm-scape
by Whitney Richardson
The Cooperation Operation (Coop Op) is a diverse group of young social & food justice activists working to create a cooperatively run urban community garden in Chicago’s South Side Pullman neighborhood. A quarter of the homes in Pullman lay vacant. The abandonment is a result of riots in the 1960s and the spoils of an industrialized neighborhood. Additional indicators of neglect include disparate access to food, high rates of substance abuse and obesity and racial divide. The Coop Op, like many young farmers across America, woke up with the hope of urban agriculture, igniting change in pursuit of a better present and future, to restore the land and make peace.
The group seeks to construct a community-oriented garden, a space where all can collect, nurture and be nurtured. In laying the garden infrastructure, the group employs foresight in process, to generate a space that will grow and develop well into the future. Creative place-making and re-use strategies characterize the Coop Op’s pull on the petals to a ‘he-she loves me’ end. After logging hours collecting signatures to approve the transformation of the abandoned lot, the Coop Op received good news- they got the lot they were after. Now, in order to make the plans a reality and lay these dreams into the landscape, they hope to gain the support of fellow young farmers and the public at large.
Among the plans include restructuring a 23,00 square foot concrete pad to host 9 additional raised beds to keep food grown safe from rampant pollutants; erecting a sea of wildflowers to attract pollination, rehabilitate the landscape and community ecosystem; erect a greenhouse to cultivate seeds and delicate greens; and foster community involvement, through skill-sharing, resource-sharing and the like. Developments include the use of re-claimed boats in bed-making strategy, inspiring playful and innovative thought.
The chorus of young farmers rings clear. “What if we took an abandoned lot and used it to teach people the art of growing food?” poses the Coop Op. By supporting the Coop Op and young farmers across America, we can answer the ‘what if’ by turning the dream of prosperity and cooperation into a reality. You can support the Coop Op by donating to their Kickstarter campaign, “The Cooperation Operation Pullman Community Garden,” before Tuesday, May 21, and help them transform home into a ‘hot-bed’ of production and TLC in Chicago’s South Side Pullman.