Emerson neighborhod, Gary, community meeting, November 2015
With the generous support of
A Blade of Grass Foundation Fellowship 2016
Walter N. Jones, Educator, Master Gardener
Deb Backhus, Environmental Engineer
Rev.Curtis Whittaker, Progressive Community Church
Emerson Neighborhood Spotlight Initiative
Drew Hart, US Forest Service Community Liasion
Miller Beach Arts & Creative District
City of Gary Departments of Re-development, Green Urbanism and Environment
Dr. Mark Schwartz, USA-NPN
An Agri + Cultural Initiative
Fruit Futures is a series of linked, civic, agri+cultural projects that initiate a new small fruit culture and economy in Gary, with multipurpose landscapes that afford, engage and educate the public. Repurposing available land in Gary, these projects include: The Remediation Arboretum, which investigates how fruiting trees and shrubs can reboot urban soils; The Climate Corridor, a linear planting of ornamental flowering trees, which beautifies the streetscape, transforming it into a seasonal, place-based, climate visualization experience; and The Community Lab Orchard, where citizen scientists explore and demonstrate the culture of favorite and forgotten small fruits for a resilient foodshed.
Population in the wider metropolitan area is shifting northward, positioning land in Gary for medium scale peri-urban agriculture. Similar soils and microclimate to the Michigan fruit belt, few existing local orchards, yet growing demand, indicate promising fruit futures for Gary: economic development, improved food access, and community resilience. Additionally, the region’s tree canopy is in peril –tree planting of all kinds is imperative. As soils are readied, future climate understood, and publics engaged, community driven productive landscapes and test orchards allow low-density neighborhoods to host important urban tree, soil, and foodshed research, growing civic pride and a new fruit culture.
The Fruit Futures team is organized by civic practice artist Frances Whitehead, Professor, School of the Art Institute of Chicago, whose plant-based public artworks foster civic engagement, and Drew Hart, a leader in community arborculture. Rev.Curtis Whittaker, Progressive Community Church and Neighborhood Spotlight collective impact organizer, and educator Sam Love, Founder, Gary Natural Areas Project, and Master Gardener Walter Jones, serve as community leaders. Resource Partners include climatologist Dr. Mark Schwartz, USA-NPN, and the Purdue University Extension Office. The project is supported by City of Gary Departments of Re-development, Green Urbanism and Environment, and the Gary Urban Agriculture Consortium.