Neighborhood Orchard


a different way of working (together)

According to one well-known adage, necessity is the mother of invention. The neighborhood orchard that we have cultivated in our Little Village neighborhood in Chicago is a quintessential example of necessity giving birth to inventive means of survival. What the adage doesn’t say is that necessity can also be the mother of conscious community-building, which is to say that even necessity can bring about positive social contingencies, which we see on a local level in this neighborhood orchard.

The proverbial seed of the neighborhood orchard was planted when my ancient furnance stopped working and my three-doors-down neighbor, Trevino, was gracious enough to fix it for me, but not willing to accept money in exchange for the help. Instead, he asked if I might plant him an apple tree. That day an informal, exchange-based economy was inaugurated between us, and as a result of similar exchanges in the following years, our neighborhood orchard is a loosely organized, non-contiguous 3-4 acres of Little Village yards, as well as one satellite site. Some yards in this microcosm are more intensely planted than others because most backyards in this area are muliti-functional in that they are utilized both for recreation and for informal economic activities, such as car repair, food preparation, scrap storage, and the like. Medicinal and culinary herbs as well as vegetables and fruit are exchanged between participants. Likewise, tools and skills are readily shared when called upon.