Guerrillas in Our Midst: Guerrilla Gardening In CU

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The strategic advantage to Guerrilla Warfare
is that through individual anonymity and
highly-visible acts of defiance, a small number
of motivated people can multiply their
reach, amplify their message, and counter a
far more powerful force. This is Guerrilla
Gardening, and its rebellion has already
arrived in Champaign-Urbana.
I have made personal contact with a
small group of high motivated horticultural
hooligans whose idea of a good time is
sneaking around, doing dirty deeds in the
dead of night. They slink in the inky blackness
surreptitiously depositing seeds and
young plants on abandoned, empty, and
otherwise unproductive land. They don’t
ask permission. They don’t apologize.
They wear masks and go by pseudonyms.
The symbolism of guerrilla gardening is
powerful: A man-made wasteland, selfishly
emptied of life by economic forces, poor
judgment, misplaced values, or simple
neglect is returned to nature for the benefit
of all. However, while symbolic acts
(including Internet posts) in and of themselves
are mere sound and fury, when this
group’s plans come to literal fruition, it will
signify far more than nothing; we shall
have our symbolism and eat it too.
While there are many empty lots in CU,
the location they’ve scouted is the perfect
(first) ground zero for Guerrilla Gardening
in CU. Remember way way back in the
early 00’s when the gangly, insolent, pussfaced,
mallcore-listening housing bust we
know all too well these days was then just a
cute bouncing baby housing boom? In those
gay monocle-wearing fat times, a developer
had a vision: to plow under hundreds of
acres of corn and build a shitload of cookiecutter
houses. The land got sold, the corn
bulldozed, the roads went in, and houses
went up. Around 2007, despite the declarations
of an elder statesman, the fundamentals
of the economy were not strong, and
people stopped buying houses. The sacrifice
of the land to the maw of sprawl was in vain.
The houses never went up; the lot is bare,
save a little scrub and a lot of potential.
In addition to turning an eyesore into a
productive, verdant oasis in South Central
Sprawlsburg, the group hopes to transform
the way that folks in CU see the land
around them. Every square inch of dirt in
our micro metro was at one time a diverse
and vibrant prairie ecosystem. Our predecessors
overtook every square inch of that
for the production of food. Eating is
important and agriculture is a pretty darn
good thing to do with land, so long as we
are produce and consume it in a responsible
manner. But that isn’t really where we
are today, is it? We live in a town where the
old new Wal-Mart was abandoned and
another couple dozen acres of farm land
were bulldozed to build a new Wal-Mart,
while at the same time, and not even 10
miles away, two other brand-new Wal-
Marts and shat themselves down upon
acres more of our “prime farmland.”
The group hopes that seeing zinnias
blooming in an alley or a tomato vine growing
up a stop sign pole will jar the rest of us
from our collective slumber. They want us
to reevaluate our insatiable demand for
more, bigger, and newer developments
reaching far into the countryside. The group
wants to remind us of the ease, simplicity,
beauty, and thrift of growing your own
food, of making something from nothing.
Sow what are their plans? First, they want
to plant a bounty of crops, flowers, and native
flora at the location above. You can expect to
see (if you can find it) corn and cucumbers,
zucchini, beans and peas, sunflowers, herbs,
squash, peppers, tons ‘o tomatoes, potatoes,
pumpkins, watermelons, berries, and my
personal favorite: big, bad Imperator Carrots.
They will of course harvest these crops when
the time comes, eating some, donating the
rest of the food to one or several of the local
food banks/shelters and the friendly Food
Not Bombs folks for their delicious free Saturday
vegan cookouts. The group is adamant,
however, that the crops belong to everybody,
so if you see a pie pumpkin growing at the
plot and you want a pie pumpkin for your
pot, a pumpkin you’ve now got.
The crew is getting ready for their big dig.
Want in? The crew is always looking for the
hook-up with free seeds, tools, bags, compost
and the like, so if you’ve got an in, spill it. The
author can put you in contact with these folks
if you ask nicely. You take it from there.
Contact me at:

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