Englewood Village Farms Showcase: Getting Grown Collective (Elevated Garden)
On August 31st, 2018, I spoke with Taryn Randell. Taryn is one of the founding members of the Elevated Garden, and Getting Grown Collective, a group of residents invested in preserving green-space in her Englewood neighborhood.
This Englewood Village Farms showcase highlights how deep family roots and relationships can lead to uniting local growers across the city. In addition, Taryn talks about the value of having strong elders on her block who made sure that things got done.
In addition, she also talked about working with Grow Greater Englewood (GGE) and the Urban Stewards Action Network (USAN). USAN is a group of Black and Brown leaders of the local food system in Chicago that cultivate connections, provide mutual support, and transform the food system across communities of color. On October Friday, October 26th, they will host a Funding Friday contest where they ask for local pitches and a select few are funded.
Taryn talked about the importance of elders working to bring her to the land and reintroduce her to partners like GGE and USAN.
“I know that if my friends don’t show up on time, if the young people don’t show up on time, it's gon’ be somebody that’s an ‘OG’ that’s gon’ be here, right when we say we were going to be - even if it's just one. And I want to make sure to show up for them because, they’ll continue to come back when they have the time and capacity to do so.”
The interview is below in its entirety:
T: My name is Taryn Randell, I’m from the south side of Chicago. I started gardening here in the city last season (Spring 2017). I actually got in it just off of an urgent feeling. I was living in California, where I’d been introduced to agriculture but hadn’t really participated in it actively beside harvesting and being on farms and eating food. I just had a calling to come home, and I learned that there was a double vacant lot available on the block that my mother grew up on. It was owned by a baba (father) in the community. So, I said I’ma go back and start doing it. And the day I landed, is the day we came onto this lot, checked it out, and started working from that day. That was April 8th, 2017. And it's been kind of a crazy whirlwind of events since then.
E: Absolutely. That’s great. So tell me where we are in Englewood and what is the entity that is managing this space?
T: We’re in the heart of Englewood on 63rd and Morgan. The organization that is maintaining this garden is Getting Grown Collective. It's a group of my family, friends, folks on the block, comrades that come in and out and offer assistance - that’s just our way of organizing ourselves. Getting Grown, it came from a Celo song; he got a song called ‘gettin’ grown”, where he’s talking about just steppin’ into responsibilities. But the way I internalized that song is that all of the generations have a different level of growing up to do. So, a month after we started this garden, both of my parents’ mothers passed away, a day apart from each other. That’s another level of coming into elderhood for them, another level of coming into adulthood for me. And, we got the shorties that are working with us too, and we’re all growing up at different paces and having different lessons to learn from each other every season. So that’s where Getting Grown came from. We’re incorporated. We are not 501(c)3 yet. We do have some bigger goals. So I think that 501(c)3 is something that we are aspiring towards but not something that we are running towards. We’re taking our time. That’s the privilege of working with elders, they keep us patient.
E: Yes. And talk about the pace, and being patient, and the process of turning over a lot like this. So talk us through the process for someone who’s thinking about turning over their own garden, and what did it take for you to get to this level?
T: Commitment. The main lesson I’ve learned with this work is that you have to be committed. Regardless of who is expected to come and help, or who isn’t. You set a time, you commit to it, and the the Universe accordingly. What we would do, it would be my mom, my dad and I out here early April. It was cold, and people would walk by and be like, “what ya’ll doin”? And then that ‘what cha’ll doin’ would be like, “I’ll help for like 15 minutes” or “I’ll help for like an hour.” That is how we ended up getting things done and started getting people on board with what we were doing. And the thing about our community is that consistency is key. This second year, there are more people that are coming into the garden instead of just standing outside the garden. Taking it back to why it's so important to be inter-generational, that baby-boomer generation, they are organized in their core. So you give them purpose and explain where your heart is intended to go, they show up. And that’s what keeps me accountable. I know that if my friends don’t show up on time, if the young people don’t show up on time, it's gon’ be somebody that’s an ‘OG’ that’s gon’ be here, right when we say we were going to be - even if it's just one. And I want to make sure to show up for them because, they’ll continue to come back when they have the time and capacity to do so.
E: For sure. Can you talk about that a little bit. That family, that comradery, that village-hood, and the relationship building aspect of this work. I’ve lived and worked in Englewood. Please talk about that because people don’t know how warm, welcoming, and embracing Englewood is.
T: Englewood is a huge, huge community, right. With that being said, it's real easy for them to take one story and plaster that across the whole neighborhood. The relationship-building is gardening. If you think about our ancestors, they did this out of necessity. There were no grocery stores, governments we’re necessarily looking out for them. So they were doing it because they had to. And they were building with people that they may not have gotten along with, that they didn’t agree with, and that they did, but that is it, that is village. Is figuring out how to build something even if you can’t necessarily see the vision. And that comes back again to consistency. I’ve been gone from Chicago for a significant amount of time, but I’ve had a lot of space away to process my childhood, and I grew up in a very village-oriented state of mind, so my family’s been organizing. We’ve done Kwanza for 26 years with hundreds of people coming, and that was just, off bat, Ima bring this, Ima bring this, I’ma bring this. And then, all of those mouths are fed twice and able to take food home and have a good time. But that comes from year, after year, after year of doing the same thing and then people can fall in line. If they know, okay, this is coming up, I know to get ready for that. That is apart of the relationship-building, showing up. Being there. Doing what you say you’re going to do. We are of a neighborhood that people respond to action, not just words. I think that’s the key part to growing anything, but especially community gardens. Because it takes a little bit of money to start it up, but once it's started up, you got your seeds, you can collect those, and everything can kind of run itself if people have bought into what it is that you are trying to do and they understand it in their heart. The mind sometimes takes a little bit to catch up, but the heart factor is real. So we just out here. And we say what’s up. These are people that I’ve known past my life. My family is from over here, so there are people I’ve been knowin’ since before I was born and that have been knowing me. So that’s another level. Like, I’m not thinking of showing up with a paycheck with that. I’m thinking about, this is somebody that I really care about and that really cares about me. And I know that they do because I’m 29 and I’ve known them my whole life and they’ve been showing up for me too. So, I think that’s the part that people forget. They forget the whole spectrum. There are things to work on right, but there’s so many people here already doing the work.
E: Beautiful. Can you talk about how you got into urban farming, growing food, food justice? I see the Cooperation Jackson shirt on. Can you talk about your process and path into this work and seeing value in a double lot?
T: I changed my diet up a little bit when I left Chicago, and got into being conscious of where my food came from and how it has an impact on my psyche and my physicality. Being involved in the cycling world, I’m an avid cyclist, I organize bike rides here and in California. So I’m coming with that type of background with there being some type of purpose behind what it is that we’re doing. I wouldn’t say I’m extremely politically educated and going in that route, but I’m more so trying to activate the imagination and the re-imagination of the world. So there are a lot of things that we’re frustrated with, and I’m just like so, what are we going to do about it? And like this garden in particular, I know that a lot of people were upset about the administration, and Trump, and all of these things. But it's like, yo, this is nothing new. So what is it that we gonna do on the ground to make sure that we’re prepared for the time period that all of this is over - which is inevitable? How do we make sure that our kids are of the right state of mind to be able to handle an unpredictable future. We have no idea what’s going to happen.
And I think that that’s what’s got me into doing it in a way that is reaching out, right. But, I immediately was invited to different conferences. I went to the SIFTPAC Annual Conference in April and bumped into friends that I had known in the cycling world and people that I knew that were organizing. And from here, to Pilsen, to Little Village, I just kind of role with my friends. And from there, I was able to meet Anton. And actually Anton, Emmanual from Sweat Water, these are people who were recommended to me by family friends to reach out to when we first started. Now these are people that I’m talking to on a deeper level now, and I couldn’t reach them when I first started, right. But I think those types of things, some things are just in order. And I was born into this. So family and community have been a huge force in my movement. I work for an organization that I kind of stumbled across by being out here, but all of my intentional moves have been through relationships. And I learned more. I learned more not just about growing the food but about food systems. And how what we’re doing plays an integral role in it. And that my strongest role is to activate imagination. I am a very child-like spirit, so I love playing with kids and also connecting with the elders. So I feel a very much so a bridge there and how to connect those two generations and have them have conversations. So, that’s where I am in all of this.
E: Can you talk about what it is that you all do here and some of the programs you have throughout the summer?
T: The most consistent programming we’ve had is a health clinic the last Saturday of the month called Elevated Healing - the garden is Elevated Garden because of the train tracks. The health clinic, I have a friend that I grew up with that’s a ER doctor at the University of Chicago. He played an instrumental role in the trauma center being established there. Him, along with some other friends that are nurses at University of Chicago and UIC, we all were like, how do we offer our knowledge and how can the garden be a space for that to happen? So Dr. D comes here the last Saturday of the month and does a Stop the Bleed awareness class so that people can learn how to use a tourniquet sets, how to create makeshift ones, we have CPR trainings, stroke awareness, food, music. It's just a really chill like conversational time. Sometimes the homies come through and offer free bike repair. So it's just like a really mellow, programmatic thing that we’ve been having. We’re really small. I would like to have more consistent yoga classes, cooking classes, and food demonstrations. But really, that health clinic has been our experiment this year to see what our organizing looks like on that front. And it's definitely clear that we need like a larger, solid team of people that are organizing for that. But at this rate, were two years old and that’s been the healthy programming that we offer. And we have bike rides every Saturday night and we’re here every Saturday from 9-1.
E: That’s beautiful. The exchange?
T. The exchange. The exchange happened collaboratively. That was a conversation between Vivy, Orrin, and myself. The exchange is a Black and Brown Farmers’ Exchange. This year we first took a bus of farmers from Englewood to Little Village. We went to four gardens. The fourth garden we chilled and ate. And then we did that same thing where farmers from Little Village came to Englewood a month later. That was started by Vivy, Orrin, and myself just starting a conversation about how we could start building. We went to an Urban Stewards Action Network (USAN) meeting and talked about it and said that it was something we were working on, and then there was support offered for it.
And so it came to life right away - and that was really beautiful. That was a collaboration with a bunch of different folks out here gardening. Little Village has a gardeners association so they are a little bit further along in terms of bringing all of the groups that are gardening together at least in conversation. So it was beautiful to see it come to life though. We were going to try are hardest and we were like, oh nice, we got buses, let's do this. The next steps of that is this winter, the photographer, Jordan Campbell, is interested in doing an art exhibit where the photos are on display and the farmers from Little Village and Englewood are able to come back together and reconvene then and we can kind of talk about what it looks like next summer. Next summer we would like to go to different neighborhoods and maybe get a bus to go to come to Englewood, a bus to go to Little Village, and then maybe we go to North Lawndale and check out gardens there. Maybe we go to South Chicago and check out the urban agriculture that’s happening out that way too. That’s the exchange in a nutshell.
E: Thank you. And lastly, you talked about Anton. And you talked about the Urban Stewards Action Network (USAN). So can you talk about Grow Greater Englewood (GGE) and what their role has been to help, facilitate, support and proliferate what you all are doing.
T: Our relationship with GGE and USAN is very new. I think at this point, our support has really just been on the ground, human to human. Getting to know each other, and showing up to each others events and plugging them. GGE was helpful in making sure we had food for the last exchange, right. And also, offering up spaces where we can have access to funding - I think that’s been the hugest support. Being put on. Being put into the urban agriculture game in Chicago. Which, I’ve been interested in on a solo mind, which is how I ended up meeting all these people. But now it's bringing the rest of the team in and my family, and their all connected on a human level. That’s really what GGE and all of these organizations have been is just new members of the village that we just hadn’t been connected to before gardening, but their people that we’re connected to outside of gardening. But, we haven’t done anything that was explicitly like GGE and Gettin’ Grown Collective going after something, except for the Whole Cities grant, which we won. But that’s us being like lets put these 4 or 5 organizations all together and see if we can compete to get some funding to help us end the season properly.