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On Nov. 3, Pilsen community members gathered in an office at St. Pius Church to discuss the redevelopment project for the Roots and Rays Community Garden located at the intersection of Cullerton and Laflin.
They plan to meet weekly to discuss the progress as well as brainstorm ways to have the garden better serve the community.
The Pilsen garden’s soil will go under a remediation process beginning in January due to detected levels of lead and chromium that increase safety risk for the local gardeners and their children.
The remediation of the soil is made possible through the approval from Alderman Danny Solis (26th Ward) and a partnership with Neighbor Space, a nonprofit and community land trust dedicated to the protection and development of community gardens across the city.
During the first meeting, Roots and Rays gardeners brainstormed ideas for the new vision of the garden and explored the issues of effective design, gardening classes, composting and waste management, city beautification, local sustainable food systems, and membership expansion.
In an effort to create neighborhood solidarity, Roots and Rays conducts all meetings with a bilingual translator.
Founded in 2007, Roots and Rays transformed a triangular empty lot in Pilsen to a free garden built with recycled materials with 17 raised beds and a shed open to residents. It’s mission is to create education and awareness of environmental issues, provide healthy, local produce to residents and food banks, such as St. Pius Pantry and Food Not Bombs, and provide a safe, green space for families. Sustainability and conservation are also core values of Roots and Ray’s mission.
A wide-range of food crops, such as corns, beans, squash, peppers, potatoes, tomatoes and squash are grown in the garden every spring season, which lasts from February through mid-April.