By Anna Lothson
Oak Parkers have proven that living in an urban area can have a country feel.
For any garden enthusiast — or even skeptics — who feel out of their element in the world of agriculture, the Sugar Beet Cooperative's first Edible Garden Tour on Saturday, Aug. 11, will show what it takes to keep a garden sprouting.
The Sugar Beet Co-op is an Oak Park group that aims to provide locally-sourced food, produced in ecologically-sound ways. The gardening community hopes to someday open a storefront, but in the meantime, the event will act as a way to showcase 20 diverse gardens.
"We really want to celebrate people in Oak Park who are using their land to grow vegetables and fruit," said Cheryl Muñoz, co-director of the co-op. "We want to promote sustainability and urban gardens. It's a great way to mitigate some problems — especially with carbon emissions and pesticides."
Muñoz, who runs the group with Oak Parker Jenny Jocks Stelzer, said the featured gardens will teach people how to use their harvesting skills year-round. Some are mature gardens dating back more than a decade; others are in their first season. Both front- and backyard gardens will be included.
"We're trying to create a little community around urban agriculture," Muñoz said. Her neighborhood alone has 12 families heavily involved in producing food. "We're all gardening together, we help together, and we share our produce."
The garden itself has built a new connection among neighbors, she said, and it has created a dialogue around urban agriculture. Often Muñoz will come home and a fresh vegetable will be sitting on the doorstep from a neighbor.
"We hope to inspire more people to do this," she said. "Building community is part of this."
Outside of the gardens, the group hopes to encourage other green practices. The edible garden walk will be bike friendly and those without bikes can rent one from Greenline Wheels on site.
Everything from fruit, vegetables and herbs will be highlighted, and even one urban chicken pen will be part of tour.
"We're trying to get across how ornamental gardens can be," Muñoz said. "They are not all little farms that take over whole yards. … There are ways to plant veggies and have a garden look."
Tickets for the Sugar Beet Edible Garden Tour, held from 11 a.m.-3 p.m., are available online at sugarbeetcoop.com.