Translating Sustainable Agriculture to the Backyard Garden in Metropolitan Chicago

Project Overview

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2010: $86,963.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2012
Region: North Central
State: Illinois
Project Coordinator:
Anya Maziak
Chicago Botanic Garden

Annual Reports


Not commodity specific


  • Animal Production: free-range
  • Crop Production: crop rotation, cover crops, intercropping, nutrient cycling, organic fertilizers
  • Education and Training: demonstration, display, workshop
  • Pest Management: biological control, integrated pest management, trap crops
  • Production Systems: organic agriculture, transitioning to organic
  • Soil Management: organic matter, soil quality/health
  • Sustainable Communities: local and regional food systems, urban agriculture, sustainability measures

    Proposal abstract:

    While the popularity of sustainably-produced goods and home gardening has grown significantly in recent years, the meaning of sustainable production and its practices remain confusing to many. The transition of the Chicago Botanic Garden’s Fruit & Vegetable Garden—one of its most popular destinations—to organic, provides the opportunity to educate its 750,000 annual visitors about sustainable gardening. CBG will create materials/curriculums for and engage its public broadly through family drop-in programs, interaction with interpretive horticulture interns, seasonal signage, open farm days, web resources, demonstrations by farmers, sustainable gardening classes, a farm field trip, and farm dinner. This methodology of offering a broad selection of activities should capture a wide audience of diverse individuals. Through an extensive evaluation—which will use staff observation, surveys, focus groups, a youth
    horticultural competition, and photo submissions—to measure the effectiveness of these activities, CBG will be able to determine how a garden-based institution can broadly educate the general public about the use of sustainable agriculture techniques. Through participation in the proposed activities, CBG visitors will in the short term increase their awareness, understanding, and appreciation for sustainable growing techniques and their products. In the intermediate term, they will garden sustainably, purchase sustainable products, and seek out more opportunities to learn about these methods. Ultimately, through this project CBG hopes to increase the number of people gardening sustainably in the tri-state Chicago region, contributing to a sustainable food system, buying products related to sustainable gardening, and also raise CBG’s reputation as a resource for information about sustainable gardening.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    Project Outcomes
    As a result of this project in the short term, Chicago Botanic Garden (CBG) visitors will:
    • Increase their curiosity about sustainable growing practices and express an interest in
    these methods,
    • Increase their awareness of the many aspects of sustainable farming and gardening and
    why growing sustainably matters,
    • Increase their knowledge and basic understanding of sustainable methods, and
    • Gain an appreciation of sustainably-farmed products.

    In the intermediate term, CBG visitors will:
    • Apply the knowledge they gained at a home or community garden,
    • Purchase sustainably-farmed products, and
    • Seek out additional opportunities to learn about sustainable gardening.

    The project’s long term outcomes will be to:
    • Increase the number of individuals using sustainable gardening practices in the tri-state
    Chicago area,
    • Increase number of individuals contributing to a sustainable food system,
    • Increase purchases of products related to sustainable farming and gardening, and
    • Increase consumer consumption of sustainably-produced goods, and
    • Broaden CBG’s reputation as a resource for information about sustainable gardening.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.