january 2019

January 2019


We hope your year is off to a great start! I always spend the last week of the year cleaning, dusting, and decluttering. This time I came across a seed catalog I’d saved from years ago. It’s from the Kitazawa Seed Company, which specializes in Asian vegetables (the selection of Chinese, Japanese, and Thai eggplants alone is incredible). The company celebrated its 100-year anniversary a couple years ago, and its history is an inspirational story of culture, identity, perseverance, and fortitude.

The catalog made me think back to my very first garden. All the seed I used for that garden was from the Kitazawa Seed Company and, as I set out, I kept wondering if I was in way over my head. But, it ended up being a great experience, and I distinctly remember a bounty of delicious Japanese cucumbers and Chinese radishes (among many other things).

My reminiscing about that garden from long ago reminded me that every garden has a story behind it: the motivations for investing all that time and energy, the successes and failures, the lessons and insights gained. Each of us comes to gardening for any of a variety of reasons, and that’s what makes for a beautiful and diverse community.

What I love about the work of the Deep Roots Project is that it supports people and their gardening endeavors, whatever their backgrounds or experiences might be. Some of us are experienced gardeners (and even farmers, which you’ll see if you keep reading), and some of us are new to it. Some of us have big crop aspirations, and some of us just want to keep a few plants in containers alive. Whatever your story is or your goals are, we hope you’ll stay connected so we can keep growing together!

— Camille Fink


The Deep Roots Project had a busy and productive 2018! Our volunteers put in countless hours over the course of the year to provide education and community outreach to as many people as possible in Oak Park, River Forest, and surrounding communities.

In 2018, Deep Roots held a dozen workshops on topics such as irrigation systems, season extension, and raised bed gardening. Close to 250 participants attended these free, hands-on workshops.

Deep Roots received a $17,000 Big Idea Grant from the Oak Park-River Forest Community Foundation to provide free Inspiration Gardens to residents and organizations in the area. These gardens include a raised bed, all necessary supplies and plants, installation, and continued technical support. We awarded 10 Inspiration Gardens to sites throughout Oak Park and River Forest, including the Trailside Museum, West Suburban Temple, Dominican University, and Ascension School. Last year, we installed six of these gardens. In July, we hosted the Inspiration Garden Award Celebration at the Trailside Museum in River Forest.


Deep Roots was also awarded a $10,000 grant from the Kott Memorial Charitable Trust to support a new multigenerational gardening project starting this year. Five accessible raised beds will be installed at locations throughout the community that will most benefit seniors. Deep Roots volunteers and youth groups will partner with older gardeners to plant and maintain the beds.

In addition, Deep Roots received a Green Award from the Oak Park Environment & Energy Commission.

Last year, we launched the Healthy Lawn, Healthy Family Pledge initiative, which asks Oak Park and Forest Park residents to commit to eliminating the use of pesticides and harmful chemicals in their yards. Since Deep Roots started the initiative, 64 properties have signed on. We estimate that 115,200 square feet of lawn space is now entirely free of chemicals and 515 pounds of pesticides have been removed from the community!

Deep Roots also supported sustainability efforts in Oak Park and River Forest through Green Block Party events, which include presentations about the benefits of sustainable gardening, the elimination of harmful toxins from yards, and the importance of native plants and pollinators. During 2018, we held eight Green Block Party events in Oak Park. In addition, we hosted another 15 Green Block Party events in River Forest and installed 16 Pollinator Parkway native plant gardens throughout the community.


We also held monthly volunteer meetings open to the public, where we had an opportunity to network, learn more about Deep Roots and how to get involved, and share information about sustainable gardening and edible gardens.

Deep Roots expanded its outreach by focusing on our website. In 2018, we opened the online Deep Roots Project store in an effort to promote edible gardening and to help make the organization financially sustainable. The store offers handmade cedar raised beds, a custom soil blend, and a variety of other garden inputs. The response to our new store has been amazing, and we’re looking forward to continuing to offer organic, high-quality products.

Last year, Deep Roots developed its online resource library, blog, and newsletter in order to reach even more people and grow our volunteer program.

We have another great year planned, filled with more projects, workshops, events, and garden installations. We hope you’ll stay in touch and join us!


JANUARY 27, 2019
2:00 PM - 4:00 PM

Winter is a great time to plan a garden and figure out ahead of time what you’ll need to hit the ground running when planting time comes around. On January 27, Dan Gibbs will be leading a Crop Planning Workshop to help you put your 2019 plan on paper, add a level of precision to your gardening, and take your garden to the next level.

Dan will show us how to increase the yield from our gardens by putting a plan together for a full and long growing season. He’ll discuss a range of topics, including seasonal crops, seedlings, crop rotation, ways to maximize space, pests, and how to schedule amendments for soil and plant health. Once again, Dan brings years of experience and knowledge to share. I had a chance to sit down with Dan recently, and you can read more about his interesting background below.

The workshop will be held at the Oak Park Public Library’s Maze Branch from 2:00 PM to 4:00 PM. We hope you'll join us!


If you’ve attended a Deep Roots Project workshop or volunteer meeting, you’ve probably met Dan Gibbs. Dan has conducted several workshops on topics including extending the growing season and preventing pests and disease. He’s a wealth of knowledge and expertise about sustainable and organic gardening, and we’re so glad he’s part of Deep Roots.

The story of how Dan got into farming shows that sometimes life can take you down unexpected — but nevertheless wonderful — paths. Dan is a River Forest native, but in 2000 he moved to Southeastern Wisconsin, where he purchased an eight-acre farm.

Dan didn’t have a background in farming. He moved to Wisconsin because he is a commercial pilot and an airport there wanted a chief flight instructor. His move into farming started at the Springdale Farm, a community supported agriculture (CSA) farm in Plymouth, Wisconsin. After one season there, he worked with a farmer to till five acres on his own farm, and his CSA was born!

For four years, Dan sold produce from his farm to restaurants and grocery stores in Wisconsin and here in River Forest and Elmhurst and also delivered to 100 households. The list of crops is lengthy and impressive (and makes my mouth water): broccoli, carrots, beets, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant, sweet corn, squash, pumpkins, melons, cauliflower, onions, fennel, lettuce, cabbage, spinach, arugula, Swiss chard, collard greens, kale, radishes, kohlrabi, beans, and peas. What’s even more amazing is that Dan was running this operation on his own!

In 2010, Dan sold the farm and moved back to this area, but he continued to be an advocate for sustainable food production and urban gardening. Today, he runs his business, The Backyard Farmer, where he helps his clients plan, design, install, and maintain food gardens. He’s also the president and garden leader of Austin Green Team, an organization that converts derelict properties into beautiful gardens.

“I love the idea that anyone has the power to grow what they enjoy eating. I believe it is very important for people, especially children, to have an understanding of how to grow food as well as the importance of good food,” says Dan.

Dan’s contribution to Deep Roots and his commitment to making gardening accessible, enjoyable, and rewarding are immense. His enthusiasm for growing food is also infectious, and you’ll be inspired to nurture a garden of your own if you spend any time with him. We hope you can come to Dan’s crop planning workshop later this month!



The Deep Roots Project store supports all the other education, outreach, and community work we do. There are beautiful handmade cedar beds available, along with everything you need to start and maintain a thriving garden. We also deliver soil and mulch and install garden beds. Please check out what we have to offer and spread the word!


Learn, Share, Grow!

The Deep Roots Project is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. We are a community of volunteers who teach, mentor, and encourage people to successfully grow bountiful edible and native gardens and to remove pesticides and toxins from their yards. We host monthly workshops, operate an online store, and coordinate a healthy lawn pledge. Learn more about us, get involved through our events and initiatives, support our work, and share our message.

For any questions about sales or programs, please contact David Murphy at dmurphy[at]deep-roots-project.org or 773-502-5600.