I take the 55 bus, or alternately, get a ride from a fellow Hyde Parker, down 55th and to the Wood St. location of Growing Home. This is just a twenty-minute trip from my home in Hyde Park, and it is clear upon arrival that we are certainly in the middle of an urban neighborhood. Just a few blocks from the farm are bustling intersections with shops, traffic, and lots of people on foot. Surrounded as we are by the city, I am always surprised by how easy it is to sink into the sounds, sights, and smells of the farm and escape from the city all around me.
Considering that this farm is tiny, taking up only 2/3 of an acre, it’s pretty remarkable how I am so easily transported somewhere far away. After all, it’s not like I am surrounded by rolling hills or fields of corn and soybeans, but am instead clearly bordered in by two parallel streets, an alley, and a railroad track. Still, something about being surrounded by warm dirt, spending hours focusing in on the suckers surreptitiously taking up space in the tomato plants or scouring beds of kale for the persistent weeds, seems to easily drown out the sense of being in a city. The only reminders that we are, in fact, in a city, come from the occasional smells of garbage wafting down the alley on trash day or from a horn blowing a few blocks away.
I welcome the opportunity to pretend I am somewhere else, not because I don’t love being in Chicago, but because I like the idea of this little farm creating a haven like this right in the middle of an urban neighborhood. Though it is sort of a stretch, I sometimes even feel like I’m back in the mountains of North Carolina when I’m working in a hoophouse with the rain pouring down on the plastic roof. While this could definitely be a result of the heat and a bit of dehydration, I like to think it’s not a bad thing, just a product of a wandering mind and the peaceful conditions on the farm.