VSA’s Britta Hernalsteen turns a garden into a purpose—and a new book

Senior Designer Britta Hernalsteen recently celebrated the publication and release of Fearless Food Gardening in Chicagoland: A Month-by-Month Growing Guide for Beginners, the culmination of two years of volunteering with Peterson Garden Project. Founded in 2010, PGP is a non-profit operating in numerous neighborhoods throughout the Chicago area, aiming to strengthen communities through the building and maintenance of communal vegetable gardens—also called Pop-Up Victory Gardens—to grow their own food.

Hernalsteen was first introduced to the organization in 2012 at a PGP meeting proposing to build a “global garden” in her neighborhood. “I helped clean the space that would become the garden, built the garden beds and gardened there for two years,” said Hernalsteen. When VSA Partners began its “Purpose Day” program, granting employees a full workday to spend on a community-focused activity, Hernalsteen knew she would spend hers with PGP, spending a day at the Chicago Flower & Garden Show as a PGP representative, helping to spread awareness of the organization.

Hernalsteen eventually found ways to contribute not only her time, but her professional skills too. Earlier this year, the PGP asked her to format and layout the content for Fearless Food Gardening, the PGP’s first publication. “It’s been a fulfilling experience to put two of my passions—design and gardening—into one project,” Hernalsteen added. The book delivers many of the same principles and information discussed at PGP meetings, but is accessible for aspiring community and home garden growers across the country.

“Britta’s work on Fearless Food Gardening helps us move into a new phase for the organization,” said LaManda Joy, PGP founder and president. “Going into year five of our venture, we are in the process of redefining ourselves from “north side community garden organizers” to an educational resource for the entire city. To be a valid “player” in the retail space, our work needs to be amazing and Britta’s selfless assistance has made that possible.”

You can buy Fearless Food Gardening online at the PGP website, or keep an eye out for it at Chicago-area grocery stores and other outlets, where it will likely be available this spring, with all proceeds contributing to the expansion of PGP. Follow PGP on Twitter or visit the PGP website to sign up for classes, find meetings in your neighborhood, make a donation or gain more information about how you can volunteer.