LOGAN SQUARE — Everything’s coming up roses now for the Altgeld Sawyer Corner Farm as the chill sets in and volunteer gardeners prepare to shut it down for the winter. It won an award just weeks after vandals trashed it.
Things couldn’t have looked worse at the farm last month when vandals uprooted plants, broke apart an information kiosk, threw chairs and tables out into the street and spread garbage across the whole garden.
The Corner Farm was started in 2009 in a long-abandoned lot at the corner of Altgeld Street and Sawyer Avenue. Its three-part mission is to grow vegetables for the Christopher House food pantry that sits kitty-corner to the farm, “cultivate community,” and to provide open space for a neighborhood that’s historically lacked it.
Out of the city’s 77 community areas, densely populated Logan Square sits in second-to-last place in terms of open space per capita, according to city records. Only South Lawndale has less.
So when three men thrashed the garden early Sat., Sept. 29 — according to neighbors who witnessed it — organizers were devastated. Neighbors immediately called police, but the men scattered before they arrived.
And worse, the Corner Farm was competing in the “Space in Between” contest put on by the Metropolitan Planning Council, which recognizes efforts to create and renew community spaces.
“It was very deflating,” said volunteer spokeswoman Brie Callahan. “We’ve all collectively spent a lot of time at the garden trying to make it both productive and beautiful.”
But that down feelings didn’t last long. Within hours of the vandalism, volunteers and neighbors took to the web and put the call out for help. The community swarmed. Before the weekend was out, the garden was like new again.
The kiosk was a little worse for wear after being put back together, but Callahan said things couldn’t have turned out better. The Metropolitan Planning Council announced Tuesday that the Corner Farm had won the $1,500 People’s Choice Award, and the farm has seen an uptick in interest from the community.
“It’s very exciting,” she said. “It was a real silver lining moment.”