The Native Seed Garden is a collaboration among Commissioner John P. Daley, Alderman James A. Balcer, the Chicago Botanic Garden, the Vocational Rehabilitation Impact Center (VRIC), and Archeworks.
While serving underemployed and at-risk young adults, the Native Seed Garden will grow Midwest prairie species that are becoming increasingly rare due to habitat loss and deterioration. The project will test the viability of generating native seed stock as a marketable crop for urban farmers. Training will be conducted through the Garden’s Windy City Harvest program, while Garden conservation scientists and seed specialists provide expertise for establishing native plant gardens. The project will utilize selections from 150 native prairie species, collected throughout 15 states over the past seven years and stored in the Dixon National Tallgrass Prairie Seed Bank vault in the Daniel F. and Ada L. Rice Plant Conservation Science Center. Our first site is in Chicago’s Bridgeport neighborhood. This project is made possible through a grant by the Institute of Museum and Library Services.
Lessons from the natural world show that successful communities thrive on biodiversity, productivity, and species adaptation. Similarly, the Native Seed Garden will add secondary crops of growing demand to help urban farmers diversify their markets, build productivity, and adapt to growing conditions, while Chicago neighborhoods gain green space from converted vacant lots. Human intervention will benefit prairie plants by mitigating against declining habitats, generating their seed stocks, and enhancing the possibility of plant diversity for future generations. Restorationists will gain access to first-generation seed stock of known origin. The Garden will advance its mission in education and conservation, while conservation scientists, community ecologists, and botanic garden educators will further their understanding of the interactions of people, plants, and climatic conditions.