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During the hour and a half workshop, Ms. Dillard prepared select, raw Vegan dishes to introduce attendees to the benefits of Living Foods and the transformative power they can have on one’s health. Using only a food processor, she combined fresh ingredients, which included fresh collard greens, mango, and mint from the Perry Ave Community Farm, to make three healthy and nutritious dishes: an Asian-inspired collard wrap, “salmon”-Pate, and mango sorbet.
To learn more about living foods and the recipes shared at the workshop, subscribe to Regina’s YouTube channel, or visit her website to find out about upcoming workshops and holistic living products by Inner Sanctum Wellness.
Summer is in full swing at the Perry Ave Commons! This season, Sweet Water Foundation is grateful to have had the support of dozens of volunteers to get the farming season off to a great start.
Dedicated individuals and volunteer groups, including CLAREO and BMO Harris Bank of America, have pitched in to support the Perry Ave Community Farm and participate in beautification and clean-up projects across the Commons. Volunteers weeded and cleared the fence along the farm, painted the Think-Do Pod and community garden stage, and transplanted seedlings.
We are truly grateful for their service!
Michelle Nordmeyer is transforming one of the toughest sections of the Perry Ave Community Farm into a permaculture-style urban fruit forest. Read on to learn more about Michelle and Permaculture at the Commons.
How long have you been involved with Sweet Water Foundation and how did you start?
I met Emmanuel (SWF’s Co-founder and Executive Director) in 2011 when he was an artist residency at the Hyde Park Arts Center. I went away for a year and came out here (the Perry Ave Commons) when I returned in 2014, but I didn’t do anything. In 2015, I would visit to help weed here and there, but was working two jobs so I didn’t have time. Last year, I met up with a couple people through the arts center who had fruit trees and were looking for a place to build a perennial, permaculture-style, urban food forest. I knew Emmanuel had this whole area towards the back of the farm that he couldn’t really do anything with because it was grassy and wet. So, he let us come and plant. So…last year, in 2016, was when I was really here on a consistent basis.
Can you tell us a little more about the permaculture?
It’s a permaculture style. We’re trying to use what we have and keep it kind of a closed system. We harvest seeds and replant them for the next year. We’re trying to compost all our green waste into soil that we can put down on the beds next year. We have fruit trees and fruit shrubs and around those we plant companion plants that are good for the trees.
“That’s the number one permaculture thing, know your area. Spend time to really know what your area needs and grows.” – Michelle Nordmeyer
What is growing in the permaculture garden?
Clovers, rye grass, fruit trees (apple, pear, peaches, persimmons and paw paw), raspberries, blueberry shrubs, elderberry, strawberries and currants. We also have rhubarb and a lot of perennial flowers and plants.
What are some resources for people interested in learning more about permaculture, the design concept and what this permaculture design is meant to do?
It was loosely designed by a permaculture designer named Matthew Stevens. He teaches permaculture design courses all over. So, it’s not his exact design, but he was one of the guiding people behind how we would fill things out. He uses Bill Mollison’s permaculture book.
If you had unlimited resources, is there a dream or vision for this space?
Yes, for sure. I would love to have a gathering area where people could come and teach classes or take classes. Ideally, we would like it to really focus on healing, things for health and also the soul and spiritual healing. It would be great to get more people involved in wanting to design their own area…to grow and harvest things for aromatherapy to support businesses, support other people. And solar panels! A wind turbine to pump our water in.
Stephen Ervin, Assistant Dean for Information Technology at Harvard Design School, recently visited the Perry Ave Commons as part of an ongoing partnership between Sweet Water Foundation and Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design. During the visit, Dr. Ervin toured the Commons, provided feedback on upcoming design projects, and led a workshop to introduce Sweet Water Foundation staff to possibility of Arduinos.
Arduino is an open-source platform used for building electronics projects. Arduino consists of both a physical programmable circuit board (often referred to as a microcontroller) and a piece of software that runs on your computer, used to write and upload computer code to the physical board.The Arduino platform has become quite popular because, unlike most previous programmable circuit boards, the Arduino does not need a separate piece of hardware to load new code onto the board – you can simply use a USB cable.
As staff walked into the basement of the Think-Do House for the Dr. Ervin’s workshop, a roll of hundreds of LED lights flickered between a plethora of beautiful colors; all controlled by the Arduino computer chip that was programmed to “tell” each individual light what to do.
Sweet Water Foundation staff and other attendees learned the basic principles of Arduino projects through a simple demonstration of the Arduino-programmed LED lights that Dr. Ervin coded in real-time. The group, then, discussed the possibilities of using Arduino technology as a low-cost and easy way to use sensors to create devices that interact with their environment.
Soon, the ideas were flowing as staff and workshop attendees brainstormed ways to integrate Arduino technology into life at the Perry Ave Commons.
“With the right sensors, the lights could be programmed to show which plants in the greenhouse need watering. We could program them to be red, yellow, or green to show which plants need water the most…”
“The lights could respond to guests arriving at the Think-Do House…creating a unique arrival experience…”
“We could create a design with the LED light strips and program them to light up the Think-Do Pod at night…”
“Or, we can program the lights to say ‘Sweet Water Foundation’…”
Dr. Stephen Ervin was an inspiration to the team and left a lasting impression during his visit to Sweet Water Foundation. The Sweet Water Foundation team looks forward to welcoming Dr. Ervin back in the near future to see the team’s Arduino projects progress and looks forward to many future collaborations with the Harvard Graduate School of Design at the Perry Ave Commons.
Meet Devontae Phillips… a Class of 2016 graduate of Dunbar Vocational High School who started working as part of Sweet Water Foundation’s Apprenticeship and Outreach Program during the summer of 2015 via One Summer Chicago. Inspired by his experience and the camaraderie of the Sweet Water Foundation team, he continued working as an apprentice with SWF throughout his senior year via a work study program that replaced the last two periods of each school day with an internship at Sweet Water. This opportunity allowed him to earn, learn, and receive school credit. Devontae, who knew he wanted to do carpentry since he was young (Can you believe he started doing construction at 12 years old?!) is now a union carpenter and continues to work with SWF as a mentor and volunteer. Read on to learn more about Devontae.
How long have you been working with Sweet Water Foundation?
Since the summer of 2015, so…three years.
What’s been your favorite project so far?
The Think-Do Pod [see photo below]. People have done it before, but this is the first one in Chicago. Emmanuel [SWF’s Co-founder and Executive Director] saw somebody else do it in Belgium. He decided that we wanted to do it. So, we did it.
If you had infinite resources and time, what project would you do?
I want to build a house from the ground up. Emmanuel says that Sweet Water is going to do it. I just want to be here to be a part of that process. I want to help with the first ground up house that Sweet Water builds. I want to be there from the start…to help with the excavation of land, pouring the concrete foundation, and building it from the ground up.
Tell us about the next steps that you have after Sweet Water Foundation?
I’m a union carpenter now. It’s what I studied and trained for, but I want to keep working with Sweet Water. We are trying to figure out how I can continue working with SWF as much as possible while I continue working as a union carpenter.
Favorite memory with SWF?
Using the laser cutter at the Lost Arts …it was amazing…that topped everything.
Favorite movie: The Fast and Furious Series
Each summer, Sweet Water Foundation’s Perry Ave Community Farm brings locally grown food to more than 200 families each week on Chicago’s South Side. “Fresh Food Fridays” has become a neighborhood tradition in the Englewood/Washington Park community from June to October. Each week patrons take home fresh harvests of collard greens,kale, tomatoes, squash, zucchini, sunflower seeds, okra, turnips, peppers, basil , mint, watermelon and more. Come rain or shine Sweet Water Foundation (SWF) team members, youth apprentices and interns have been there to serve up fresh foods to neighbors, friends, and visitors. Fresh Food Fridays are also the vehicle through which SWF harvests large quantities of produce for distribution to local schools, churches, and non-profits that set up market stands to increase access to quality produce across the community.
However, Fresh Food Fridays is so much more than a farmer’s market. Sweet Water Foundation believes that food is an underutilized force for improving health, wellness, and socio-cultural connections in our community. Fresh Food Fridays provides an opportunity for SWF staff to give tours, host nutrition and cooking lessons, document the history of the community through photos and record interviews, and co-create a vision new possibilities for the Perry Ave Community with visitors. Elders share stories of their experiences in the neighborhood before blight. Mothers, grandmothers and uncles share recipes. Others offer preparation tips to encourage fellow patrons to experiment with unfamiliar foods. Some came out of pure curiosity. Regardless of what brought them to Fresh Food Fridays or which food they walked away with in their bags, all were able to experience the feel-good atmosphere of creativity and rebirth in this communal space.
With the support of The Mozilla Hive Chicago Learning Network and the Chicago Community Trust, the Re[CREATE]Ed Spaces project brought together a diverse group of 25 youth who curated their own project-based learning experience to envision and recreate an education and recreation space for youth from a vacant lot on Chicago’s South side.
Over the course of Summer 2016, the Re[CREATE]Ed Spaces program engaged youth from Chicago Architecture Foundation’s (CAF) Teen Fellows Program and Sweet Water Foundation’s (SWF) Apprenticeship and Outreach Program in a 6-week project that took participants through a full design+build program resulting in youth and community-inspired renderings for a full pocket park in Washington Park and construction of a mini-pocket park on a formerly vacant lot.
Youth collaborated in 6 design/build sessions over a 4-week time period in July, followed by 2 build weeks (week 5-6), and a culminating event at the end of week 6. Youth also established DiscoverDesign.org accounts and were issued participation badges from CAF for their work, exposing them to and engaging them in a learning pathway above and beyond this project.
Core programming consisted of 4 sessions focused on design and 2 sessions that engage youth in the construction of elements of their design (e.g., park benches). Sessions were led by professional architects, tradespeople, and/or CAF/SWF staff. Sweet Water Foundation hosted a culminating Harvest Celebration event in week 6 to celebrate the completion of the project and provide youth the opportunity to share their families and friends.
Ultimately, the youth’s voices will be the driving force behind the design of a pocket park and provided the narrative of the story of the project that will make the construction of this new youth-inspired space possible next summer (Summer 2017).
March 28, 2016
Sweet Water Foundation (SWF) is excited to announce the completion of aquaponics projects in partnership with Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) at three high schools and two elementary schools.
During the 2015-16 school year, SWF worked with MPS teachers and students to install aquaponics systems at The Alliance School of Milwaukee, Byron Kilbourn School, Casimir Pulaski High School, Ronald Wilson Reagan College Preparatory High School and Trowbridge School of Discovery and Technology.
In addition to these projects, SWF helped to reestablish an aquaponics program at Barack Obama School of Career and Technical Education.
Jesse Blom, SWF Milwaukee Director, gives credit to the teachers and students who have adopted these aquaponics projects. “The teachers and students are the ones who activate their learning on a daily basis, so they deserve most of the credit. MPS is using aquaponics systems to teach a variety of different subjects in an interdisciplinary way. Working with aquaponics systems can improve students’ eco-literacy and awareness of healthy foods, and can provide meaningful hands-on work, creating a positive classroom environment. We look forward to working with MPS on these projects for years to come.”
The new projects are part of the Urban Schools Aquaponics (USA) Initiative, funded by a grant from AT&T and the NEA Foundation. Over the past two years, SWF has provided intensive, hands-on training to 15 MPS teachers on aquaponics design, construction, operation, and maintenance. SWF has worked with students, teachers and administrators to install the aquaponics laboratories, and SWF provides ongoing consultation and assistance to these schools.
Since 2010, Sweet Water Foundation (SWF) has partnered with Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) on aquaponics projects at the elementary school and high school levels. SWF has trained teachers, provided supplies and materials, assisted with installation of aquaponics systems in schools, and provided direct instruction to students. In addition to the most recent projects, SWF has set up programs at Lynde and Harry Bradley Technology and Trade School and South Division High School.
Aquaponics programs have grown considerably in MPS since 2008, the year the National Education Association Foundation, with help from AT&T, began supporting MPS’ Urban Aquaponics initiative with grants. The program was developed to advance Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) education among low-income and minority students and introduce students to a sustainable form of farming.
Expanding STEM education is part of MPS efforts to close the achievement gap, one of the district’s Eight Big Ideas to accelerate student achievement.
More information about SWF can be found at www.sweetwaterfoundation.com
More information on SWF’s partnership with MPS on aquaponics initiatives can be found at the following links:
November 5, 2015
Jesse Blom, SWF City Director in Milwaukee, recently visited EARTH University in Costa Rica, where he was invited by Professor Alex Pacheco to assist with the school’s urban and peri-urban agriculture program. EARTH University is an international university for sustainable agriculture, with students and faculty from over 40 countries.
During his 10-day stay at the university, Jesse taught an aquaponics mini-course for a group of fourth-year university students, and assisted a group of second-year students with a start-up aquaponics tourism enterprise.
Jesse’s two day mini-course was a part of the university’s new elective course, “Agricultura Controlada” (“Controlled Environment Agriculture”). The course blended classroom lectures and discussions of aquaponics practice with hands-on work with the newly established aquaponics pilot facility. Course material ranged from system design and water chemistry to commercial applications and the economics of aquaponics.
Jesse also led second-year EARTH students in their efforts to lead tours and workshops at the new aquaponics facility. The center of their efforts will be hands-on workshops using a Barrel-Ponics aquaponics system. During his stay, Jesse and the fourth-year students assisted the second-year students in the construction of this system.
In the summer of 2014, Sweet Water Foundation hosted Professor Alex Pacheco at the Heart Haus in Milwaukee during his sabbatical, including him in their aquaponics training program for Milwaukee Public Schools, and giving him a tour of our Chicago facilities. We look forward to continuing the positive and productive relationship with EARTH University in the future!
On June 6th, an intergenerational and interdisciplinary group of community residents, University faculty and students, and Urban Agriculture practitioners gathered at the Sweet Water Foundation’s Think-Do House in the Englewood/Washington Park neighborhood for a Culinary Medicine workshop. The focus of the workshop was to provide an opportunity to discuss and share practical knowledge about how food plays a role in health and nutrition-related issues within the community.
The curriculum for the program has been adapted from the Culinary Medicine program at Tulane University and brought to Pritzker by Dr. Geeta Maker-Clark, a Clinical Assistant Professor and Coordinator of Integrative Medical Education, and Dr. Sonia Oyola, Family Medicine Clerkship Director. Throughout the course of the program, Kendall College’s Chefs taught students how to prepare meals incorporating healthy ingredients and how to present this information to patients through hands-on cooking classes at Kendall.
Culinary Medicine combines the art of cooking and eating with the science and research around food, nutrition, and medicine, to help prevent and control common health conditions. An innovative and collaborative means of educating medical professionals about nutrition, culinary medicine prepares students for a career of teaching and counseling patients on some of the most important aspects of healthy lifestyle.
The workshop at Sweet Water Foundation’s Think-Do House allowed students of the Culinary Medicine program the opportunity to share what they learned directly with a collection of community residents representing an intersection of 10 neighborhoods across the greater Chicagoland area. The keystone of the Culinary Medicine program has been the opportunity to connect with community, and teach the concepts, cooking methods and simple healthful recipes to those who can use them most. Ultimately, the project aims to get medical students out into the communities they serve, as well as make them excellent counselors of good nutrition in the office setting.