Find your community garden groove in Chicago’s Albany Park

Whizzing around town, I have often caught glimpses of a garden nestled right in Albany Park amid the bustling neighborhood. Last Sunday, with my son Isaiah cozy in his car seat, I picked up my dad, who is always ready for an adventure, to check it out. My dad, who passed on many things to me including a love of fedoras, was donning a gray tweed variety for our impromptu community garden excursion. The cool hat theme continued as we approached the garden (2954 W. Lawrence Ave.) to find a lone man in a wide straw hat who looked like a sentinel watching over the space.

Luckily, he was a friendly sentinel who let us in on this spontaneous visit. He did not speak much English, but my dad chatted away with him and figured out that he was from Burma and his name was Mlla Poudel.

Mr. Poudel, as my dad called him throughout their conversations, was part of the Global Gardens Refugee Training Farm. This organization offers an opportunity to more than 100 refugee families to grow produce, and boy, do these families do a great job at it. Spring has not even popped into full bloom, but the indoor greenhouse had massive bursts of kale and beautiful, reddish lettuce blossoms that looked like roses.

We had fun pointing out the different varieties to Isaiah who was snuggly with me in his baby carrier. A stroller would be impossible here, as it has a very rustic, rocky terrain. Also, had I thought things through a bit more before darting out the door, I would have traded in my city-friendly Converse kicks for rain boots.

This unique garden is a two-in-one space. The Peterson Garden Project has the front portion along Lawrence. This part of the garden has neat rows of raised garden boxes. We counted about 150 of them that hadn’t quite burst into spring life, but did provide a playground for robins.

I know that this spontaneous visit and barging into a space that is typically locked and being lucky enough to have a cool Burmese guy like Mr. Poudel show you around is not exactly a typical family event, but I wanted to put this place on your radar in hopes that you will find a way to connect with the two organizations that run the show here.

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