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Gardening story plants a seed about Auroran’s community

Updated: October 3, 2012 6:15AM

After my visit to Jen Evans’ front yard, I left with more than just the armfuls of eggplants and edible flowers that her five-year-old daughter kept setting atop my notebook as I wrote.

I had visions of my own chain-link fence, inherited from my home’s previous owners, covered like Evans’ in Concord grapes.

Each one of the people I talked to for this story believe that food, whether homegrown or grass-fed in a pasture, can be more than just calories on a plate. It can build communities, restore an ailing environment, and support a local economy.

That may seem like a radical idea, but as one grower I talked to said, “This is normal, just not in the past 150 years.”

Like most of my friends, I grew up with a fondness for Pop Tarts and microwave burritos. It wasn’t until I became a vegetarian (for the first time) in high school that I began contemplating where my food comes from.

The local food fanatics I talked to now have me thinking about where food can take us. And I keep coming back to the image of those grapes — which would seem a much better border between neighbors than galvanized steel wire.

For someone who lives on Aurora’s near East Side, a neighborhood with a lot of chain-link fences, it’s encouraging to watch the success of the Elgin Community Garden Network, businesses like Joe Dirt’s and Wallace Farms, and even individuals like Evans, who said she plans to start consulting for others who want to build their own food forests.

Here’s to hoping that sharing seeds and eggplants with your neighbors becomes “normal” again.

- Jenette Sturges

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