Students at North-Grand HS in Chicago are working with After School Matters and the Cob Connection to expand the school garden and build a gazebo from cob, a mixture of clay, sand and straw.
Thursday, August 16, 2007
Monday, August 13, 2007
Saturday, August 11, 2007
After 6 weeks of hard work we finished the gazebo. It has benches and a table as well as an arched window and mosaics. It was built mostly from salvaged and recycled materials. As everyone said who came to see it during our living portfolio exhibit, our students have a lot to be proud of!In addition to the gazebo we’ve expanded our urban mini-farm, built a tool shed and a gateway trellis and have poured the foundation we will need to add a roof to the gazebo.
Our neighbors and friends have enjoyed the harvest of tomatoes, broccoli, cherry tomatoes, swiss chard, cabbage, jalapeno peppers, zuchini, summer squash, green beans, lettuce, and more.
We invited family and community members to come see our work. DJ Luis gave old-school spinning lessons and we enjoyed food donated by Domino’s Pizza and The Brown Sack Restaurant.A reporter from the EXTRA newspaper came to do a story about our project which should be coming out in the paper on Thursday. She interviewed students and visitors to the site as well as Chad and Mr. Cantor.
Thursday, August 2, 2007
“I went for a couple of hours on Monday morning. The project looks great! It
really looks like it is coming together and, more importantly, the kids
seem to have really come together as a team.”
Wednesday, July 25, 2007
Friday, July 20, 2007
The gazebo is shaping up! We put in a window, and the walls are slowly rising. We re-did some of the tent supports and started clearing all the trash that has accumulated in the prairie restoration. We are seeing plants coming up from the new urban farm mounds and we planted more veggies along with sunflowers and pumpkins too.
Tuesday, July 17, 2007
Monday, July 16, 2007
Friday, July 13, 2007
The tool shed is finally about 99.9% done. We made 3 batches of cob today including one that is just about done and will be used on Monday. Mr. Meehan came by with some great ideas for building our roof, and got our first materials list together. We spend a lot of time re-building the tent and staking it down so it doesn’t blow away again. Each day we learn a set of new skills and concepts… for example, improvising the tool shed and the tent supports will help us design and build a strong roof for the gazebo that will last many years.
Today most of the time I took it easy, I admit but you have to work hard to own your own stuff.
Fue un dia bueno iqual que otros. Levantamos la carpa y reamos mas barro. En fin fue una buena semana.
Today we did some cob and fixed the tent that fell down and I think I did OK. Today wasn’t as hard as before.
Tuesday, July 10, 2007
from JM: I’m proud. I think we did a lot in just a few days. I work hard. This day was fun, nasty, and dirty. We made cob and had fun.from FC: Work on a team/You will work hard and strong.
from RS: Presenting the TREE of LIFE… made of concrete and cob… built by many giving hands and feet… strenth in the muscle…. but the one of the most important attributes is understanding…. the understanding that building the wall in scupture…. might just bring the community together.
from NC: I met a lot of good friends… they really make me laugh. I’m glad they are my buddies.
from GC: The tool shed is finnaly, well almost, finished. All we need is to finish the door and roof. Everything we’ve done in the garden is starting to take shape. The gazebo foundation is nearly done. But at the same time we are having fun…we mess around and play around, but still get the work done.
from AC: This week was really hard. We did a lot of work. At first I thought that this job was going to be slow. After the first day we did a lot of working and the days go faster now. I didn’t think we were going to have a lot done the first week, but we have. So far its been OK. Some days it feels like I don’t want to go to work and other days it feels OK.
from JS: I am learning how to make a cob home out of mud, straw and water. I like how this is going with cob.
from WA: It was a good day. I worked hard and got stronger. The tool shed will be done in maybe 2 or 3 days. I’ve leanred a lot of good skills, like to be a carpenter. I am considering being a carpeter after the work I’ve done.
from JH: a cob haiku
Cob is great to make
Cob is dirt, clay, sand and straw
Cob is fun to make
from EN: Today was good, like I always say. When this six weeks are done I’ll be glad because I’ll be looking at the garden until I graduate. I just wish to have a chance to be able to do it again.
Monday, July 9, 2007
Step into the shoes of Cob Connection founder Chad Bliss and be surprised. When most executives push papers and write checks, Bliss spends his days in Humboldt Park farming and harvesting crops on the once empty lots he transformed into organic farms five years ago. Bliss and his organization change lives by engaging and inspiring local youth and ex-offenders.
“What we do is develop local food systems,” said Bliss. “When you develop local food systems, you have to look at the factors within that. We have work force development by teaching young people skills so they can be more involved in their communities and make a difference. We have micro-enterprise by selling to farmers markets, restaurants and local businesses. We have food security by showing people they are going to have food tomorrow by growing it. So it’s a very successful model. We’ve come a long way from that wheelbarrow and shovel in the beginning.”
Debuting in 2005 at a food festival and becoming a 501(c)(3) organization in 2007, Cob Connection is a leader in the local and sustainable food movement and helps drive public awareness in and around Humboldt Park.
“The biggest challenge was trying to find someone to fund us because no one really understood what I was talking about concerning food and how it is symbolic for everything like power and life,” Bliss said. “To get someone to fund it was a challenge because they thought there had to be some other kind of purpose other than teaching people how to grow their own food.”
Cob Connection runs programs to jump start lives. Will Work For Food is an eight month-long job training program to help transition individuals from welfare to workforce. CommuniTree employs and trains ex-offenders in the techniques of urban agriculture and urban forestry while also contributing to their own well-being.
“One of our partners is Association House of Chicago,” Bliss said. “So we do workshops and trainings with the food pantry recipients and in return they get to come here [Crystal Farm site] and harvest food for free.”
Bliss explains that publicly harvesting food can slowly change neighborhood life and behaviors. “Conversations change and behaviors change when you set something up like this. People are authentically looking for differences and changes in their community. Whether they follow through with that or not, at least its a thought in their mind.”
Cob Connection also changes the way individuals think about themselves and their neighborhood. “It’s given me a lot,” said intern Antwon Christmas. “It’s a good thing for the neighborhood too. They don’t got to look at garbage or nothing like that. They can look at something positive instead of negative.”
Angel Alvelo, 21, said it’s done a lot for him as well. “It keeps me busy, and keeps me off the streets where I used to be. It has made a big change in my life.”
The farms are not only changing local residents’ lives. Cob Connection reaches individuals outside of Humboldt Park. “It’s a revolutionary thing for most of us to stop rushing toward a goal and just slow down,” said Cob Connection Director of Special Projects Meg Mass. “Often my job is all about the distant goals: What are we going to do next year? How do we get their? How do we find money? But the part I like best is just being here today, figuring out what has to happen on the farm today.”
Though organizers are focused on staying in the present, Cob Connection’s future is bright. Cob has an organic garden on the 16th floor of Trump Tower so that local and organic food is used at restaurant Sixteen. There are also future plans for having a sustainable Christmas tree farm in the community re-planting trees that would have otherwise been thrown away.
However, with all the prospective expansions around the city, Cob Connections’ farming philosophies and food system model stay true to its roots. “I don’t know of a farm that is doing something so large that’s keeping it so simple as far as the growing side goes,” Farm Manager Shawnecee Schneider said. “We don’t need a million meetings about how we are going to plan this farm, we just do it.”