By Louise Macaraniag
The Heritage Garden at the University at Illinois at Chicago hosted its annual Spring Seed Swap event at the Latino Cultural Center this past weekend.
Titled “Revive and Thrive: Food Sovereignty and Vision for Growth,” this event facilitated a space where the community was invited to learn about food sovereignty and environmental justice.
With this goal in mind, the Heritage Garden student interns coordinated an event that featured different local gardeners, community members and community organizations across Chicago that share the Heritage Garden’s mission and values.
“At the heritage garden, we have our three pillars, which are environmental sustainability, social justice, and cultural diversity, so [these] community organizations have a similar mission to us where they provide social justice with gardening or planting or environmental justice or sustainability,” Heritage Garden Student Leader Zully Morales said.
Each organization was invited to table the event to talk about its missions and share seeds or other resources with the community. These community organizations include Farm Food Familias from Getting Grown Collective and Little Village Environmental Justice Organization (LJEVO), Ruckus Teens, Teen Artists’ Creative Oasis (TACO), and Students for Animal Liberation.
This event was used as a space for these organizations to discuss local environmental issues, food insecurity, social justice, and sustainability.
“Especially in Chicago, there’s just a lot of injustice when it comes to food equity and also land access,” Heritage Garden Student Leader Eyzel Torres said. “So, another thing that is really important for these events is that education where we talk about things like environmental justice.”
Attendees were able to take home free seeds and seedlings provided by the Seed Library, UIC Greenhouse, LJEVO, and donations from other outside organizations such as Advocates for Urban Agriculture (AUA). Ruckus Teens was invited to sell all-natural organic soaps, balms, deodorants, and facemasks. TACO did live artwork, gave away small sketches, and performed slam poetry.
Boyneski from TACO was the featured slam poet for this event. Boyneski said of her performance, “I decided to do a live performance that represented my culture, which is African-American culture and [how] Black hair resembles trees and how it takes patience for the hair to grow.”
The Heritage Garden has hosted this annual Seed Swap event every year since the beginning of the Heritage Garden internship program in 2013. The event originated from Jane Addams Hull House and was inspired by their Seed Library which was later donated to the Heritage Garden in 2014. The Seed Library is a treasure box full of seeds, which has been developed into an educational mobile tool kit by the Heritage Garden interns.
“[This event] is a way for artists, especially POC artists, to be able to express themselves and bring back to the community,” Boyneski said. “And that’s really what TACO is really about. It’s about having all artists have a voice or have a way to express themselves.”
The original Seed Library was donated by Jane Addams Hull House. (Photo/Louise Macaraniag)