LAKE BLUFF — Community has several meanings for the people growing produce and a few flowers in the New-Witch Community Garden in Lake Bluff.
It means fresh food for the tables of 13 Lake Bluff families.
It means getting to know neighbors better.
It means quality, productive family time.
It means community members teaching each other about gardening.
The New-Witch Community Garden is a joint effort of 13 Lake Bluff families who live in the vicinity of E. Witchwood Lane and Neuman Court. They are growing their first crops to add healthy food to their tables.
The garden is the brainchild of Howard Bennett and Laine Bennett of Lake Bluff. Laine said creating a healthy diet was not one of her initial motivations, but her family will eat healthier as the food is harvested.
“We’re going to use a lot of this for our morning smoothies,” she said. “I realized we’re going to have a lot more organic vegetables and fruit.”
The project’s genesis came when the Bennetts bought a lot with an old home on the northwest corner of Witchwood and Neuman with the idea of possibly demolishing the existing structure and building something new for themselves. The house came down but nothing has gone up. They live nearby.
“We tore down the house and got rid of about 50 dead trees,” said Howard Bennett. “We cleared out a lot of brush.”
Project Starts With Real Estate Trasaction
As the Bennetts talked about what to do with the lot, they got the idea of a community garden. The first problem they said they faced was a water source. Once the house came down, there was no connection left for a vacant lot. Then they talked to Village Manager Drew Irvin. Irvin committed the village to providing a pair of 275-gallon tanks and keeping them full of water.
Irvin said Lake Bluff is looking at a number of environmentally friendly measures in the village through its Sustainability and Community Enhancement Ad Hoc Committee. Though the committee’s primary focus is on private chicken coups and beehives, he said community gardens is another avenue. He said he hopes it will be a pilot project for additional efforts.
“This is a good way to support the effort and we saw an opportunity,” said Irvin. “It is a way to have locally sourced food. We had the tanks so there is very little effort and expense on the part of the village.”
Howard Bennett said he started communicating with people within a four to five block area and eventually there was a meeting in March. He said 13 families agreed to participate. There are 16 separate gardens, with some families having two. Laine said the group agreed the garden would be organic.
Some Families Have Two Plots
The Bennetts are one of the families with two gardens. One is for the parents and one for their three children—Piper, Brynn and Brooks—where carrots, lettuce, peppers, watermelons and beans are among the crops. Their adult garden includes kale, tomatoes, beets, fennel, eggplant and more.
“It’s going to make my salads better,” said Piper.
Along with the gardening, Howard said there is a stronger sense of community in the neighborhood. People are helping each other with the chores. When there is a lot to be done, many of them gather to do it.
“We’re getting to know more people in the neighborhood,” said Howard. “The kids are making friends.”
Since some of the neighbors are more experienced gardeners than the others, the sense of community extends to feelings of assisting others and gratitude for doing so, he added.
Another benefit is time families spend together tending to their plots. Howard said the time the children spend in the garden provides a personal bountiful harvest along with the epicurean one.
“The kids are over here,” said Howard. “It keeps us doing something together outdoors in the neighborhood.”