Chicago, IL GreenFriends

MA Center Chicago (MACC) currently has many GreenFriends initiatives that include food forest with Hugelkultur swales, rain water recycling, green house and community garden, salsa project, composting and recycling, natural bee keeping, soap making, meadow restoration, youth education and nature experiences, tree planting, silent auction and hula hoop fundraiser. In addition, we are involved with the Echinacea Enterprise and partners with an organic vegetable Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) for production of chemical-free, naturally grown vegetables, both located on our campus.

Silent auction
Hula Hoop workshop
Food Forest
Greenhouse and Community Garden
Salsa project
Composting and Recycling
Beekeeping
Handmade soap and natural products project
Meadow restoration
Youth education
Tree planting
Echanacia enterprise
Organic vegetables

MA Center Chicago

Green Friends Chicago Gathering and Silent Auction
March 8, 2015

On March 8, 2015, GreenFriends Chicago held its Annual Gathering and Silent Auction. Doors opened early for folks who wanted to browse the 62 auction items that were donated. A delicious homemade dinner was served with dessert, and a presentation about MA Center Chicago and GreenFriends Chicago was made. It was a well-attended fun event.

Silent auction

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Hula Hoop workshop

Hula Hoop Workshop – Saturday, April 11, 2015

Fifteen children and adults participated in the Hula Hoop Workshop, donated for the GreenFriends Annual Gathering. Hula hoop fundamentals were taught in a light-hearted, fun atmosphere in the Spots Center at MACC. Everyone who participated learned the basics of hula hooping and had fun doing so.

Food Forest with Hugelkultur Swales

The Food Forest was planted in 2013 during a workshop by John Sheffy. Two Hugelkultur swales were dug, filled with woodchips, and inoculated with mushroom spores and effective micro-organisms. Fruit and nut trees, in addition to edible shrubs were planted.

In 2014, the Food Forest was doubled in size with an additional Hugelkultur swale, many fruit trees and raspberry and blackberry bushes. Storm water from the roof of the South Lodge is diverted to the swales in the Food Forest.

Food forest preparations

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Green House and Community Garden

A green house to extend the growing season was built by Jebran in 2014. In 2015, an automatic watering system was added to the interior of the green house. An organic community garden has been created where residents of MACC can come together and enjoy connecting with the earth.

Together we are learning about ways to garden that are regenerative as well as organic. The community garden produces vegetables and flowers that residents can harvest and excess is sold during the satsang on Saturdays.

Community garden planting Community garden planting Greenhouse construction

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The Salsa Project

Out of a desire to learn how to do canning, the Salsa project was born. Tomatoes, peppers, cilantro, onions, and herbs are being grown and will be harvested and made into salsa in the commercial kitchen at MACC. This salsa will be canned, labeled, and offered for sale to support GreenFriends Chicago projects.

Planting for slasa

Composting and Recycling

MACC residents have been trained in heap and vermi-composting. There is an area set aside in the resource center on campus where residents can dedeposit their food scraps, mix them with brown material, and allowed to compost. Finished compost is used in the gardens on campus.
Composting

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Natural Bee-Centered Beekeeping and Sanctuary

This is the 3rd year caring for Amma's Bees at the Chicago Ashram. We use a "Warre" vertical top bar hive which allows the bees to make natural comb and overwinter nicely. No chemicals are used and the focus is on their health rather than honey production.

We are striving to provide all the forage needed for all seasons here on the Ashram property, to avoid exposure to pesticides and other stressors that have been reducing our nation’s bee population. We are planting large beds of choice bee flowers and are surrounding the hives with the medicinal herbs they can be used to improve their health. Our goal is to create a Pollinator Sanctuary. We held a two-day seminar on Natural Beekeeping with experts Kerry Jehanne and Jacqueline Freeman from Queen of the Sun.

Bee hives Beekeepers Bees

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Handmade soap

Handmade Soap and Natural Products Project using Honey, Beeswax, and Botanicals

GreenFriends, with the help of AYUDH, launched our Bee Fundraiser Project by making handmade soap containing beeswax, honey, calendula infused oil, and petals. A second batch of soap was made with antibacterial ingredients to be donated to Nepal as part of relief efforts.

Meadow Restoration

When Darren Doherty came in August, 2014 to teach a 4-day workshop, he suggested MACC allow some of the turf grass to grow as a way to help build our campus soil, and thus the Meadow Restoration project was born. Turf grass is allowed to express itself naturally until it is ready to go to seed and then it is mowed.

Chipmonk

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Youth Education/Nature Experiences

MACC’s resident naturalist provides monthly nature explorations for youth. These engaging experiences align with the InDeed Campaign and include creating homes for wildlife, gardening, litter pick-ups, habitat studies, flora and fauna identification, animal tracking, and outdoor recreation.

Kids in the fields

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Tree planting

Tree Planting

Tree planting has been ongoing since MACC opened in May, 2012. Trees for shade, trees for food, trees to memorialize loved ones. In 2015, an orchard of 250 fruit trees was planted.

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Echinacea Enterprise

In the spring of 2014, Jebran Cech of Horizon Herbs wanted to find a way to help MACC raise money in an environmentally-friendly way. Br. Shantamrita Chaitanya and Jebran decided to grow two acres of Echinacea purpurea (purple coneflower) on our agricultural land – a native plant to the Chicago region with medicinal value! The germination rate was exceptional and in the spring of 2015, the abundant plants were thinned and sold as wholesale bare root stock. Future plans are to make tinctures in the fall and continue to grow the plants for two more years when the plants will be harvested and sold for its medicinal value.

Echinacea rows

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Satsang farm market

Organic Vegetables - A Partnership

During Darren Doherty’s workshop at MACC in August, 2014, he suggested that MACC grow more of its own food on the agricultural land and less crops for animals such as hay. MACC decided to find a local organic vegetable farmer to partner with. A partnership was born in the spring of 2015 with three acres of organically grown vegetables being continually planted on MACC property during the growing season. These fresh vegetables are shared by the partner’s CSA and MACC. MACC utilizes its weekly share of vegetables for its Satsang farm market, Satsang dinners, resident dining hall meals, special celebration dinners, tour dinners, and Ashram-prepared meals feeding those in need. When MACC produces more vegetables than are needed by the weekly programs, they are stored for winter use by freezing, canning, or drying.

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