The Forest Park Public Library is breaking new ground, establishing a partnership with the Forest Park Community Garden. On Sunday, June 8, the library sponsored a tour of the garden with planned activities for children. 

But it was the grownups who showed up. 

“I had some activities planned for people who were 10,” said former board president Jessica Rinks, but the youngest child in attendance was actually teenager Daniel Stroth. He and the adults enjoyed touring the plots in raised beds at the intersection of Harlem Avenue and the I-290 expressway. 

Rinks showed the groups the “giving garden,” a group of plots reserved to grow fresh produce for the Forest Park Food Pantry. 

Volunteer Ramon Gonzalez pointed out some of the more unusual crops thriving in the garden. 

“These are Egyptian walking onions,” he said, pointing to stalky plants that propagate by collapsing onto the ground and sinking new roots.

The idea for a community garden germinated with Rinks and Gina Thomas back in 2008. Now they’ve gone deluxe. The village has provided a tool shed and running water. A professional landscape company keeps paths mulched and bindweed at bay in the common areas. They also have a free pile of compost soil for gardeners to use. 

Residents can rent a plot for $50 a summer, $15 of that being a refundable security deposit. The plots can pay for themselves in tomatoes, Rinks quipped. No pesticides or Miracle-Gro, however, are allowed. 

Visitors were also given a tour of an adult-beverage horticulture experiment on the hilly perimeter of the garden. Forest Park home-brewer Neil Driscoll has planted several Kent Golding hop plants imported from Grand Rapids, Michigan. The bitter-flowered, beer-flavoring vines wouldn’t grow in his Forest Park backyard, but they’ve twined themselves enthusiastically around his homemade PVC pipe trellis at the community garden. 

Driscoll uses a food dehydrator to dry them to flavor his brew — about 4 ounces of hops will make 5 gallons of beer, he said.

Rinks’ organic farmette, Purple Leaf Farm, is thriving. She moved the operation to Elgin after the Forest Park Village Council denied her a second year’s lease at the vacant Altenheim property. You can find Rinks selling at the Hines VA Farmers Market on Thursdays and on Saturdays at the 61st Street Farmers Market in Hyde Park. Thirty-five families subscribe to her CSA and get fresh vegetables, flowers and herbs delivered weekly, she said.

The next library event at the Community Garden, a study of herbs, will take place Sunday, July 13 at 2 p.m., said Alicia Hammond, the community engagement librarian.

Jean Lotus loves community journalism. She covers news, features, two school boards, village council, crime, park district and writes obits for Forest Park Review. She also covers the police beat for...

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